A Liberal Arts Journal
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
L. C. Smith and the Color of Snakes
by Ben Jacques
Living and Learning in Rwanda
By Adrienne Wootters
Book Review Essay
By Ely Janis
Gender, Race and the Antilynching Crusade in the United States
By Frances Jones-Sneed
A Liberal Arts Journal
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
Frances Jones-Sneed, Managing Editor
Arlene Bouras, Copy Editor
James MacGregor Bums, Professor of history and political science,
University of Maryland
Stephen Fix, Professor of English, Williams College
Tony Gengarelly, Professor of Art History, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
Thomas Green, Professor of law and history, University of Michigan
Mary Huber, Carnegie Foundation scholar
Lea Newman, Professor of English emerita, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
loseph Thompson, Director of MASS MoCA
©2011 The Mind's Eye
The Mind's Eye, a journal of scholarly and creative work, is published annually by
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. While emphasizing articles of scholarly merit,
The Minds Eye focuses on a general communication of ideas of interest to a liberal arts
college. We welcome expository essays, including reviews, as well as fiction, poetry and
art. Please refer to the inside back cover for a list of writers guidelines.
A yearly subscription to The Mind's Eye is $7.50, Send check or money order to The
MmdSEye, C/O Prances Fones-Sneed, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts,375 Church
Street, North Adams, MA 01247.
2 The Mind's Eye
In This Issue 4
By Jeffrey McRae 5
ByAkUi Carter 10
Liar from Vermont
By Laura Stevenson 11
L. C. Smith and the Color of Snakes
By Ben Jacques 33
Living and Learning in Rwanda
By Adrienne Wootters - 36
Book Review Essay
By Ely [anis 53
Gender, Race and the Antilynching Crusade in the United States
By Frances Jones- Sneed 59
The Mind's Eye 3
In This Issue
"A discerning mind, one that blends science and Springsteen, is the back-
bone of the creative spirit. . . ."
— Stephen Joel Tracbtenberg
In this 20 1 1 issue oilhe Mind's Eye, we offer readers an eclectic view of the
liberal-arts mind at work. While some are worried about the prospects of
unemployment during these times of tight budgets and few opportuni-
ties, we continue to highlight the life of the mind, because it is the only thing
that will save us from ourselves.
We highlight poetry by Jeffrey McRae on three familiar subjects that play
with a crisp nuance of words and symbols. Akili Carter, an alumnus of MCLA
who played basketball and double-majored in English and history, still writes
poetry and imagines himself out of the pigeonhole definition of what a black
man is in America today.
The short fiction by Laura Stevenson,"Liar from Vermont" gives us a view
of the mind of a seven-year-old growing up in an accomplished family, while
Ted Gilley's "Smoke" gives us a glimpse of the life of a teenage boy coming to
terms with difference and Ben Jacques's piece, "L .C. Smith and the Color of
Snakes," shares with us a bird's-eye view of a writer's life. We also feature an
essay by Adrienne Wootters on her teaching experiences in Rwanda while on
sabbatical last year on a Fulbright Fellowship with her husband Bill.
Ely Janis writes a book review essay on Erika Lee and Judy Yungs Angel
Island: 'Immigrant Gateway to America", which brings to light the often for-
gotten westward entry of more than a half million immigrants through the
Angel Island immigration station off the coast of San Francisco from 1910
to 1940. Finally, Frances ]ones-Sneed, the 2010 Faculty Lecture Award win-
ner, discusses black women's roles in the antilynching movement in an essay
titled "Gender, Race and the Antilynch ing Crusade in the United States." From
poetry to nonfiction, we offer something for everyone's taste, because the pur-
pose of the liberal mind is to open, process, deliberate and expand ourselves
in new and creative ways.
Frances Jones-Sneed, Managing Editor
■I The Mind's Eye
BY JEFFREY McRAE
I am the king. I rule this fortress of bones.
My kingdom, my sad land, broken baronies of bone.
An indescrete sonne is a grefe unto his father.
Boot boot boot. So drum the marching bones.
Storms have worn the mountains to stones.
Alone with my God I speak the ancient language of bones.
Old Lady Erin bequeathed j asmine, basil, a nest of hair.
I hold in my hand her amulet, butterfly pin, ring of bone.
From my tower I watch Painted Post burn.
Other, I fear you most. Next, I fear my crest of bones.
In the dark I crawl like a spider across the page of a ritual.
Inspire my voice, o you quiet admission of bone.
Exhume and cart the dead beneath the city.
Heaven help the poor, their wandering bones.
Prodigal son, good for nothing, 1 inherit the skeleton key.
Roots pulled from the loam were soft as a baby's bones.
The Mind's Eye 5
BY JEFFREY McRAE
It's the real deal down here at this groom-
built house, on groom-cleared land way
out at the end of the county. We aren't here
to play Moon Dance for the honky-tonk
women and iron men picking over the tables
of salads; for the children playing tag
and cases of beer. Grills spit and snap
and smoke towers above the tent. Rain held off
all morning and the road is dry, but guests
are throwing up in the trees and sprawling
on the beaten grass. The newlyweds
are leaving the house so we one, two, three, fah!
kick the Steppenwalf full blast and the stage
shivers when the Harleys fire all their guns
and the drive wheels spin and the scent
of exhaust and rubber fills the yard.
The bride and groom enter the semicircle
of heavy-metal thunder and she beams,
teeth flashing like the sun glinting on a crash cymbal
and raises her finger for all to dig stone
and wedding band together at last.
They're late looking for adventure
grinning, holding hands, ears bursting
to rock and hogs; she carries a daisy bouquet;
bike Mind's Eye
they step through the burn-out plume
as the tires begin bursting and fists pump
and rebels yell and spit beer into the sky
until just one wheel, a mad dark circle,
scars the dooryard and drops to a last
longer gear, picking up more speed
whining and bursting like a cannon shot
and the party screams and we're smoking the oldies
like it was the first time. The trees sway
in the heat rolling off the bonfires, covering us in ash,
remnants of something gone up in smoke
as fast and intense as nature allows.
BY JEFFREY McRAE
We are getting to "The Chrysanthemums,"
but first I draw a cross on the board,
'"that's Jesus," says Rob.
I draw a swastika, "evil";
a dollar sign, "opportunity." I draw a flag,
'lire American flag reminds Peg of patriotism.
The other Rob announces, "oppression."
Patrick thinks it's a marketing ploy
for the Fender Stratocaster.
Sarah states with certainty New York
was an original colony and thus
is one of the thirteen original stars.
Danielle thinks the colors look very 17th c.
You've got to have some presence, mutters Gail
(who told me before class it was her boyfriend
and his brother and his brother and his brother
and they could just give her their shit
and what the fuck was she going to do-
live on the street? Nothing she could do.
And their mother, after Gail does the laundry
and cooks the food, says she's going to crack
and fail school. Tells her she's ugly.
Gail says she wants to punch someone.
"I'm thirty-three and don't own a car— and they're Scottish.""So am I," 1 say.
"So am I," she says, quickly. "And Irish.")
Colby says, "Gail, can you please
8 The Mind's Eye
save your sob story for 'Ihursday?"
I keep the window open— it is so hot
in the conference room: We sit around
fanning our faces. I draw the lidded
Salinas Valley and inquire into the significance
of the fence around Elisa Allen's sandy starter bed.
Gail fills her notebook with stars and pentagrams
and a dramatic white unicorn on hind legs.
"Animals often indicate symbolism," 1 mention.
Tfacey notes the dog hiding
under the junk wagon, lean, slow to fight,
and that Elisa Allen is lean like the dog
and when her mums are left on the road
she gives up hope. "And she gives up hope"
1 repeat, looking at Gail, and say,"Gail,
why can't she make herself happy?"
And Gail laughs,"She doesn't even know
how unhappy she is."
Imagine (in honor of black ice)
BY AKILI CARTER
Imagine if getting your degree and going to college
Were the stereotype for black men
Imagine if U.S. colleges were the place where it was 80 percent
Imagine if basketball and football scholarships became a luxury again
Not a necessity for some young men to get into college
Imagine if people didn't think it was weird that 1 have three degrees
Imagine if I weren't a part of the minority that doesn't call people nigga
Imagine if rappers stopped saying it in their bars
What would we do then?
What would people think of young black men?
Imagine that fathers didn't run away from their children
Imagine there were no need for a child-support collection department
Imagine if the divorce rate weren't almost 55 percent
Imagine if I could've gotten the same education I did
If I hadn't grown up in the suburbs
What if my father hadn't pushed me to be all I could?
What if my father hadn't been there to give advice?
Imagine how I would've turned out
Imagine the stereotypes I would've fulfilled
Imagine if all coaches made their players write poems
Imagine if we taught our little boys that girls should be respected
Imagine if I didn't tell my daughter and son I love them every day
Imagine if the way I thought weren't so hard to imagine.
10 The Mind's Eye
Liar from Vermont
BY LAURA STEVENSON
The year Elizabeth II was crowned Queen of England and Edmund
Hillary conquered Mount Everest, ! first said I was from Vermont.
To me, the three events had equal significance. No glory the Queen
might have felt at Westminster Abbey could possibly have matched my pride
in my identity; but the problems Hillary encountered in conquering the un-
vanquished peak seemed inconsequential next to the difficulties of explaining
how a child born and raised near Detroit could be a native Vermonter.
My difficulties began in the suburbs of Boston the day after my seventh
birthday, at Mary Anderson Memorial School. St was my first day at a public
school, and I was only there for a year— the Great Man was spending two
semesters at Harvard and I had to be educated in the interim. He and Mother
had warned me that Mary Anderson Memorial wouldn't be at all like John
Dewey Elementary, where I had gone at home. And it wasn't. We said prayers be-
fore class, just as if that were normal, and the chairs were bolted to the floor in
rows, too far away from desks that were too high, so we couldn't see anybody but
the teacher. The children were different too. By nine o'clock, the yellow- shaded
room was perfectly quiet while they copied the teacher's name, Miss Coffin,
off the blackboard. I had never seen perfectly quiet children before— at Tohn
Dewey, we'd been encouraged to express ourselves. But Miss Coffin seemed
not to notice how unnatural the silence was. She tapped up and down the
aisles of studious heads, upright and immaculate in high heels, straight gray
skirt and red lipstick. My row was going to be the next-to-last she came to, 1
saw. Hurriedly, I wrote her name in thick pencil, then looked out the window
and thought about Vermont.
"Vermont" to me was not the state but the sagging farmhouse the Great
Man had bought when 1 was in kindergarten. It didn't have much paint on it when
we fi rst saw it, and it had a privy instead of a bathroom. Mother had running water
installed right away, and Joan, our neighbor's daughter, was so excited by the toilet
that she flushed it four or five times whenever she came over. Her privy had three
holes, and you washed your hands at the tap in the kitchen.
loan's father was a farmer. He didn't talk unless he had to, but he could lift
rocks onto the wall he was building for us as easily as he could boost me up
on the back of Tommy, one of his roan workhorses. I liked to watch him swing
the boulders into place, smiling to himself while the sweat made his blue shirt
stick to his back. His team helped him— patient Tommy, who looked just like
him, and Teddy, who was young and not safe for kids to ride. Most of the time,
they stood placidly under the apple tree, whisking their short tails at flies.
But when he had loaded the stoneboat from the pile of boulders and started
to back them towards it, they began to prance. I could feel the ground shake
under their bucket-sized hooves from my perch, fifty feet away.
"Whoa!" They stopped, trembled, waited for him to drop the chain over
the iron pin.
They leapt forward— too soon, too soon!— "Whoa, whoa, Tommy. . . " He
had to dig his heels in as they towed him forward by the reins.
"Baaaack, baaack, eeeeasy, now. . . ."
Foam floated out of their open mouths, and sometimes Teddy half reared,
backing on his hind legs.
"Whoa." They stopped. Trembled. Waited. 1 dug my fingers into my hands.
"Git!" They jumped forward together into their collars, their huge shoul-
ders leaning over their forelegs, pulling, pulling. . . . "Whoa!" Back, ever so
slightly, fhen,"Git!" and they strained, their heads down to their knees, hooves
tearing the ferns, farther, farther . . . and they were there.
"Whoa!" Teddy threw up his head and nipped at Tommy as Joan's father
drove them back to the apple tree. They snorted, rubbed their faces on their
12 The Mind's Eye
legs, then began to munch grass quietly, shaking their blinders. 1 fed them
sugar out of my trembling, flat hand, wondering at their gentleness,
"Peggy, does this look like what you saw on the board?"
Miss Coffin was standing at my right elbow, frowning. 1 looked at her
carefully, which was how, at John Dewey, you figured out if your teacher was
smarter than you were. Most of them weren't. They tended to have eyes like
cows — soft and kind, but with only one expression. The Great Man said this
was because they had a Theory. But there was nothing theoretical about Miss
Coffin's gray-blue eyes. 1 decided not to sass.
"Well, no. Not exactly." The letters didn't go the same direction. They'd
remarked on this at John Dewey, but they'd said it was a sign of originality.
"Let me see you write it."
I picked up the pencil in my left hand and started in as neatly as I could,
but she stopped me.
"That's backwards. Can you make it go the other way?"
I could, if I really thought about it. But it was hard to concentrate with
her watching like that, so some of the letters went backwards, even though the
printing went the right way this time. All the other children, still silent, were
watching me. I put my hand behind my back, and Miss CofEn, still frowning,
finished checking the other papers in my row. 1 looked Out the window again.
In Vermont, my hideout was across the mowing— a granite ledge, gray,
streaked with white marble. At its top, moss grew thick, green and moldy-
smelling, so deep that when I lay on my back, it tickled my nose. Underneath
the ledge, on its sunny side, three-leaved plants bore strawberries between
the devil's paintbrushes and buttercups. Some days I lay there all morn-
ing, rolling my tongue over the tiny red sweetnesses that tasted like dirt
ancl grass, sniffing the lemon smell of crushed fern, listening to the white-
throated sparrows sing their four sad notes in the humid sunlight.
"Boys and girls," Miss Coffin was saying, "Peggy Hamilton is our new girl
this year. Can you tell us a little about yourself, Peggy?"
What was there to tell? They already knew I couldn't write.
Miss Coffin smiled this time. "Just tell us what you'd like us to know about
you," she prompted.
What I'd like them to know? Well, that was easy. "I'm from Vermont," I said
Ihe Minds Eye 13
proudly. "My dad has a hundred acres there, and we farm it. We have ten heifers
and fifteen milk cows and a bull. And an old tractor and two workhorses, Tommy
and Teddy. My dad builds walls, and my mom . . . well, she helps out with the
chores and stuff. ..." I stopped, my fingers crossed inside my clenched fists.
Miss Coffin looked puzzled. "Thank you, Peggy." She called a reading
group to the front, and I stared at the arithmetic on the board. Slowly, 1 ground
my first finger and thumb together as hard as I could on the top of my leg. It
had been wonderful, making those quiet kids look interested. But it was a he,
and liars had to be punished.
Grammy was making sandwiches when I came home for lunch. "How was
your morning, dear?"
"All right, 1 guess. My teacher's name is Miss Coffin."
"Poor dear! Imagine going through life widi a name like that!" Grammy's
name was long and German. It meant "God's chosen."
"Maybe she'll get married," I suggested helpfully. "She's pretty."
"I'm sure she will, then," Grammy spread mayonnaise over the freshly
baked bread. "Are there any nice children in your class?"
"Can't tell yet." Nice children were kids who didn't watch television or
read comic books, had mothers that didn't work, and weren't either Unitarian
or Catholic. They were hard to pick out on the first day of school "Where's
"At the faculty club with your father."
"Didn't she remember I come home for lunch here?"
Grammy's apron smelled like fresh bread as she gave me a hug. "She knew
I'd be here to take care of you," she said. That was the nice thing about Gram-
my: Taking care of me was all she had to do.
We ate our sandwiches in the dining room. There was a table in the kitchen,
but civilized people didn't eat there — except in Vermont, where there was no din-
ing room, only the kitchen, big and bright, where everybody who came to visit
ended up sitting around the table. But this wasn't Vermont, so Grammy and I sat
across the dining-room table from each other, saying grace. That was our secret.
The Great Man didn't believe in God, and at John Dewey they said He was op-
tional, but He was a private friend of Grammy's and mine. Sometimes we read
the Bible together, when my parents were out. Grammy knew all the best stories.
"Grammy," I said after we'd finished, "don't you wish we'd moved to Vermont
instead of here?" In Vermont, nobody cared which way my printing went.
14 'Ihe Mind's Eye
"Vermont is nice in the summer," she said, "but you'd get tired of eating in
the kitchen and using paper napkins if we did it all year round."
I liked paper napkins, but I knew it was useless to argue.'Tes, but wouldn't
it be wonderful to have our own cows, so we could milk them and drink it all
warm, right out of the pail?"
"Gracious! Can you imagine me milking a cow?" She was sitting with her back
to the window, and the light behind her caught the white hairs that had slipped out
of her bun, making her a delicate halo. The hands folded on her place mat were
so thin I could see all the little bones that became her fingers where her palms
stopped being palms. No, I couldn't imagine her milking a cow, much less
doing the other chores 1 knew had to be done when you kept cows in a barn.
"Well, I'd milk the cows, then, You could make bread and watch sunsets."
Grammy laughed. "It would be too cold to watch sunsets in winter, dear."
But as she cleared the plates, 1 knew she was thinking about Vermont eve-
nings, when she sat on the stone slabs that made the front steps of our house,
watching the sun lower itself into the purple-gray mountains and the faraway
mirror of the lake. After it was gone, the clouds blazed pink and orange, and
Grammy, facing them, became a pastel reflection of their softness— serene,
remote, untouched by the world.
"Peggy?" Grammy's hand patted my shoulder. "The policewoman has
come on duty, and here you are, just sitting and dreaming. You'd better hurry."
I hurried, wondering how I was ever going to be able to explain to the
other kids that I lived in Vermont, when they could see 1 lived right across the
street from school.
It turned out not to be a problem; the kids never put two and two together.
That made them different from my friends at John Dewey, who would have
seen through my fibs in two seconds, beaten me up and then wanted to learn
all about the farm. 1 was glad not to be beaten up, though I knew peer pressure
was an important factor in developing a conscience. On the other hand, since
everybody believed me, I had to go on lying, and that got harder and harder.
Lying to Miss Coffin, for instance, was so tough— she always paid attention to
details, and sometimes I forgot which ones I'd added— I didn't see how 1 could
keep it up for two whole terms. And then there was Mr. Kerry, the principal.
Every time it was my turn to take a note to the office, he'd put his head out of
his special little room and say, "How's the little girl from Vermont?" So to keep
up face, I'd have to tell him how the cows were doing, or later in the fall, how
The Mind's Eye 15
we were splitting wood for the stoves— "It's hard, Mr. Kerry. You have to hit the
log in exactly the right place, or your maul just bounces back."
"Yeah? What's a maul, Peggy?"
He sure didn't know much about farming. "It's like a sledgehammer, only
one end is like an ax. You use the as end to split logs, and the hammer side
makes it heavier."
"You don't say!" His eyes were large and brown, and he liked to listen to me.
Probably he had a Theory. Sometimes he walked me back to my classroom, his
white socks flashing between his pants and his shoes. When I got to my seat, I'd
pinch myself once for each time I'd fibbed to him. The whole top of my left
leg was purple now, and I'd had to start in on the right one. When the nurse
who did the physicals asked me how on earth I'd gotten all those bruises on my
thighs, I said I'd run into a hedge on my bike. I gave myself two pinches for that
later on— one about the hedge and the other because I diclrit have a bike.
A week after the physicals. Miss Coffin gave me a sealed envelope to take
"What's in it?" I asked with John Dewey suspicion.
"A note about a conference that I'd like to have with your mother." Her
voice told me John Dewey suspicion didn't sit very well with her, but I didn't
take the note, even so.
"Is it about my printing?" Miss Coffin had noticed I threw a ball with
my right hand, so she'd suggested I try writing with that hand, too. My
right hand didn't know any more about making letters than my left knew
about throwing balls, but Miss Coffin said it would learn if I practiced. It
didn't. After six weeks, r still picked up the pencil in my left hand unless
she stopped me, and no matter how hard I tried, the letters wouldn't stay
on the lines.
"That, and a few other things."
"Mother's pretty busy with the faculty women's cl— " oops— "I mean, the
Farm Bureau. They really need women to help work for government subsidies,
so she doesn't have much time."
Miss Coffin smiled a little smile ! didn't like very much and pushed the
note into my hand. "I'm sure we can arrange a time when she can see me,
I was sure, too. Miss Coffin never had trouble getting what she wanted.
I scuffed my shoes as hard as J could on the sidewalk as I dawdled past the
statue of Mary Anderson. It was all going to come out now— and what would
16 The Mind's Eye
Grammy say when she found out I was a liar? Would she let God forgive me?
Mayhe He would forgive me even if she didn't, but what good would that do?
And what if He turned out to be optional after all?
When 1 got home, Grammy and Mother were setting the table with the
best china and silver.
"Who's coming?" I asked. "Can I eat with you?"
"May I," said Mother, giving me a hug. "It's a special party to celebrate your
father's translation of The Odyssey!'
1 liked The Odyssey. The Great Man had read bits of it to me as he trans-
lated along. The stories in it were cool— every bit as gory as the ones in the
Bible. "Can . . . may I help you get things ready?"
"Grammy and I can do it faster by ourselves, dear."
"I wish Pris were home." Pris was my much older sister. She went to Radcliffe.
"We all miss Pris, but she's having a good time on her own, isn't she?"
"Grammy, will you read me a story?"
"Not right now, dear."
As I started upstairs, I remembered the letter. "Oh, Mother! Miss Coffin
sent you a note." She put it into her apron pocket, which might or might not
be a good sign,
1 went to my room and drew a picture of a white farmhouse on a hill. In
back of it, 1 drew a purple line for mountains, and just on top of them I set a
big orange-red sun. Carefully, 1 began to color the sky light pink at the bottom,
and darker in the middle, and finally blue at the top. As ! added a few dark
clouds, 1 suddenly stopped. I was holding the crayon in my left hand. I looked
at my farmhouse, perched peacefully on its green-gray hill. Two small tears
spattered down on the page, smearing the sunset. 1 went into the bathroom,
got a Kleenex and tenderly blotted them off.
At quarter to seven, I was dressed in the blue smocked dress Grammy had
made me, and sitting on Mother's bed, watching her screw her earrings tightly
onto her ears.
"How come you don't get your ears pierced?" 1 asked.
"Good heavens, dear! Where did you get such a bohemian idea?"
Bohemian ideas seemed not to be good ones, so rather than get Pris in
trouble by saying I'd gotten it from her, I changed the subject. "Can we go up
to Vermont next weekend?"
"Possibly," she said. "But that will be about the last time until next spring."
The Minds Eye 17
"The last time!"
"You forget," she said, "it's going to snow up there soon, and they don't
plow the road to our house. So we'll just shut it down for the winter, the way
we do when we're in Michigan."
"Do you suppose it misses us when we're gone?"
Her reflection gave mine a gently reproving smile. "Do you really think a
house can miss people?"
Did I really . . .? I thought of coming in on weekends, sniffing the damp
smell of unheated house as I hurried through the kitchen where the china lay
behind glass doors, waiting to be used on the table that stood waiting to be set.
Of running up the steep stairs to my room to find the old jeans and sweaters
I wore in Vermont and nowhere else. Of hugging the chilly stuffed animals
who had been waiting patiently for me to take them out of their silent rows.
Thoughts like that made it hard to say houses couldn't miss people, though
even I knew that was supposed to be the truth. But rather than risk lying any
more, I said, "Well, I miss it— all the time."
"I know you do." Mother sighed, and I waited for her to remind me Har-
vard was Important in a way Vermont somehow wasn't— but she was ab-
sorbed in placing her silver combs behind her ears, making her hair puff out
over her earrings.
"Mommy, you're so pretty."
"Why, thank you, Peggy." She turned around and smiled, a smile like
Grammy's, from deep inside her eyes. When she smiled like that, she looked
very fragile, and younger than I was. "Shall we do your braids?"
I sat in front of the mirror and watched her hands part my hair into scrag-
gly blonde strands. "Your bangs are crooked, aren't they?" she said. "Shall I—?"
"People will be here before you're done," I said quickly. My hair was
straight and fine, and when she tried to even my bangs out, they slipped away
from her scissors until they were so short they stuck out in a little fringe.
"All right." She glanced at the clock and braided fast, pulling the little
wispies that grew down my neck. "There!" she said, dissatisfied. They were
already beginning to slip out, but there was no time to fix them, let alone ask
her about Miss CorTin's note, even if I had dared. The doorbell was ringing.
Dinner was served at eight, The guests were arranged boy-girl-boy-girl
around the table ("so the men won't just talk to each other"), down to the
corner where I sat on Mother's left. There were lots of people there. The man
18 The Mind's Eye
next to Grammy was Mr. Steiner, a psychologist — "one of those people who
think everything we do has to do with sex," Mother had explained earlier. One
could only pity him. In our family, man was a rational creature, and sex was
what dogs did. Then there were some people from the Classics Department,
who all looked alike, even their wives, and Mr. Zander. Mr. Zander taught
English. He wrote novels instead of real books, but they must have been pretty
good, because the Great Man said it wasn't every day young writers got tenure
at Harvard. The important thing about him, though, was that he had a sum-
mer place in Vermont, and we had been staying with him there when he'd
persuaded the Great Man to buy ours. Ever since then, he'd been my special
friend, and tonight he was sitting next to me. He was wearing a blue tie with
bulldogs on it, and some words on little shields. I stared at the letters as the
Great Man carved the roast.
Mr. Zander smiled. "Can you read yet, Peggy?"
"Sure. I'm in the Highest Group."
"Well, can you read this?" He held out the tie so I could see it better.
I spelled it out carefully. "The first word is Lux. Then et. Then veri — Veritas'.'
"Good for you," he said, his blue eyes crinkling behind his glasses. "Do you
know what it means?"
All the guests were smiling as they waited for me to admit that I didn't,
but I could do a little better than that. "It's Latin," I said. "And Veritas is on all
the notebooks here, so it must have something to do with Harvard."
"You're absolutely right, my little classicist," he said. "It means truth, which
Harvard purports to value. What about luxV
"Well," I hazarded, "it sounds like luck, but — "
"—Luck and Truth!" he said, delighted. "Marvelous!"
Everybody laughed, and I joined in, but I didn't really feel like it. If truth
was as big a deal at Harvard and Yale as it was in the Bible, luck wasn't going
to do me much good. 1 looked down at my napkin.
In my hideout, thick green moss grew over the top, but next to that was a
brown, thinner kind that had fairy cups sprouting out of it after it rained. Then
there was a taller, leafier kind that smelled like mint when you crushed it, and
finally a ground pine that looked like cactus— or might, if you were very small,
1 weeded around it and made a little track through it. Hundreds of ants passed
back and forth on my track, carrying white eggs in their mouths. I wondered
if they thought they were in a desert.
The Mind's Eye 19
Mr, Zander's hand fell on my shoulder. "Hey!" he whispered, "Come back
"See?" Mother was saying in the bright tone she used when she pretended
nothing was wrong, "She just slips away."
"Well, she comes by it honestly," said Mr. Zander, smiling as he looked
down the table to the Great Mans abstracted face. "Where do you go when
you slip away, Peggy?"
"Vermont."Where else would anyone go?"
He kissed me on the forehead, which sort of surprised me. "Vermont," he
" Veritas, indeed— and not on a notebook, either. You're a discerning child."
"She's more than that," Mother said, sighing. "I just got a note from her
school, saying she's been telling everyone that Edward is a farmer and we live
in Vermont. Not just the children — her teacher, and even the principal!"
I stole a glance at Grammy, but she looked busy with her roll, and maybe
she really was, She didn't hear very well when lots of people were talking at
once. Next to her, though, Mr. Steiner stopped looking bored and stared at me
through his funny glasses, and the Classics wife on his far side seemed to be
In Vermont, I thought desperately, there's a Model A in the barn cellar. It's
rusted apart, but you can still open the door ... it was no good. Everybody was
looking at me now, so I knew I was going to be The Subject of Discussion, 'lhat
was what happened in our family when you did something terrible, unless the
Great Man noticed— in which case he roared at you, and you cried and stopped
doing it. Generally, though, it was women who noticed terribleness, and since it
was unbecoming for women to raise their voices, we handled things this way.
Because there were so many people, the Discussion was quite lively and
a little hard to follow. From what I could gather, the school had said that ly-
ing could imply a serious emotional disturbance, which some people said
was the case and others said was the kind of cant you got from schools these
days. Then there was some stuff about guilt and self-punishment that made
me wonder who had told Mother I was pinching myself, but I never found
out, because Mr. Steiner was talking loudly about a dreadful condition that
started with "skits" and had something to do with dreaming off. Mean-
while, people were passing heaped -up plates to each other— all the way
around the table, the way they always seemed to— and filling each other's
glasses, and by the time everybody was served, the only clear result was that
20 The Mind's Eye
as these things went, I was getting off lightly. The guests, though interested in
my condition, seemed unconcerned by the depths of my depravity; the Great
Man hadn't been paying attention; and Grammy had drifted off to someplace
of her own where there was no loud laughing or smoking or drinking.
During the next few mintites, there was nothing but the hungry clanks
of forks— no wonder, since it was 8:30 by now— interspersed with comments
on how good everything was. Then one of the classicists started talking about
Stalin, Mrs. Steiner started talking about her exotic new hairdresser, and a
bunch of little conversations started up. Just as I began to feel safe, I heard Mr.
Zander say quietly, "Do you have any idea what you've done?"
When 1 turned to see who he was talking to, 1 saw he was looking at me
with the kind of pitying smile you give to sinners before you shape them up.
Well, 1 deserved it, but I felt a stab of betrayal. As a veteran Subject of Discus-
sion, I knew there were some people who just had to add a little lecture of
their own after everything was over. But it hurt to think that M r, Zander, third
in line after God and Grammy, was one of them. The food on my plate blurred
as I looked down at it.
"That's what I was afraid of," he said softly, handing me his handkerchief.
"Listen, Peggy. Don't let them get you down. You've pulled off a magnificent
I stared at him over the perfect white folds."] what?"
"You've done something extraordinary."
"Shh," he said, glancing around the table. "You'll start them off again, But
yes. You've told a story that has held the attention of a whole school for six
weeks, That's just— amazing."
The way my mouth dropped open would have made him think 1 was a
total retard if the Classics wife on his right hadn't rescued me by asking him
a question about Stalin. As it was, I had time to pull myself together before he
turned back to me.
"Now then," he said— softly again— "as I was saying, you're a wonder."
Maybe I wasn't as together as I thought. "But didn't you understand ...'<"
"I understood enough to realize you told a fantastic story,"
"But it wasn't true," I said. "It was a lie. Like . . . like Stalin. And look—
didn't he die? I thought it was a big deal — "
" — Yes, he died, and yes, it was a big deal, but no, what you told was not a
lie like Stalin. It was a lie like , , . Odysseus."
77ie Mind's Eye 21
"Odysseus? He was a liar?"
"A consummate liar. Of the highest order." He smiled at my shocked face.
"Last time you and I talked about Odysseus, we were watching your family
play croquet, and you were telling me the story of the Cyclops. Do you re-
I nodded. Of course 1 remembered. The sun had been just about ready to
go down, the hermit thrushes had been singing in the woods, and the swal-
lows had been racing over the mowing, diving and snapping at the last bugs
of the evening.
"We didn't mention who tells that story in the poem— but do you know?"
"Sure. Odysseus tells it to a bunch of people at a dinner party."
"That's my girl," said Mr. Zander. "Now, tell me. Do you think the people at
the dinner party believed the story?"
My eyes opened wide. "You mean, they didn't?"
"Well, let's see," he said. "Believing it involves believing that Odysseus and
his men sailed to an island in habited by many giants but met only one, that the
one was so big that he could pick up two men, smash them together and eat
them raw in a couple of mouthfuls, that he spoke fluent Greek, that there was
a log lying in the cave right where Odysseus needed it. , . ,"
"But if they had said those things, they would have wrecked the story! "
"So you're saying they didn't believe the details, but they believed in the
storyness of the story and they admired the skill of the man telling it?"
That seemed to be what he wanted me to have said, so while it was a lot
more complicated than anything 1 could have come up with on my own, I
He smiled. "Fine. Now tell me— does everybody in your school really be-
lieve you live on a Vermont farm?"
"I. . . ." Come to think of it, did they? They seemed to, but . . . "I don't know."
"C'mon, Peggy. It's a public school, right?"
"What's that have to do with it?"
"Everything. A public school is supported by town taxes, so it's open only
to kids who live in the town."
"You mean 1 couldn't go to Mary Anderson Memorial if we didn't live here?"
"Right. Now, most of your classmates, and certainly your teacher and your
principal, know that. And yet . . . well, you tell me. When you talk about the way
you live on 'your' farm in Vermont, what do they do? Call you a liar? Walk away?"
22 Ike Mind's Eye
"No. They listen."
"And why would they do that?"
"Because ..." I thought of Mr. Kerry's face, and even, sometimes, Miss Cof-
fin's. "Because they're . . . interested."
"You bet they are. This is undoubtedly the first time any of them have
met a second-grader who can make life on a Vermont farm as real to them as
Odysseus made the Cyclops real to the people at the dinner party."
There was something he was missing. 1 couldn't quite figure out what it
was, but it seemed so important that 1 objected instead of just shutting up.
"Urn ... the life they're listening to isn't mine" I said. "It's sort of Joan's but not
really. It's the life I ... er ... go to, like I did when you—"
"—Called you back?" He smiled as he took his handkerchief back, but his
eyes were serious. "Sure. That's why you can tell such a convincing story."
"But isn't going to a place like that . . . isn't that wrong? I mean, I know its
not real, but sometimes it's so much realer than ..." I looked around the table.
"Well, this. Or school. Isn't that skits o . . . whatever Mr. Steiner was saying?"
"No, no," he said, glancing anxiously across the table. "It's doing what you
have to do when you don't quite fit into the puzzle you've got to live in. Unfor-
tunately, the experts who classify the pieces of modern puzzles tend to think
tliat a kid who can share her imaginary life in a way that makes her auditors
hear a higher truth has something wt— " He broke off, his face a sudden mask
of politeness as he looked past me at Mother. "Splendid dinner, Ellen," he said.
"Absolutely perfect for the occasion."
"Oh, thank you!" she said, and I knew she was really pleased, because he
was a fussy eater— only with adults, you had to call it a gourmet— and she had
been worried about cooking something he'd enjoy. "What are you two talking
about so seriously?"
"The Vermont we have in common," he said. And 1 was just about to sug-
gest that Peggy write down some of her daydreams for other people to read."
"Oh, she can't," said Mother, quickly, ashamed."We've just learned that her
Mr. Zander looked from her to me."A smart girl like you has trouble writing?"
"Only with my right hand," 1 said. "My left hand writes okay, except some-
times it goes backwards. That's wrong, so at school I have to write with the
hand you're supposed to write with — "
"What!?" said Mr. Steiner, Mr. Zander and Mother, almost at the same
The Mind's Eye 23
time. The next moment, Mother was asking me reproachfully why 1 hadn't
told her, and everyone else was agreeing that making left-handed people write
with their right hands was a holdover from the Victorians, who seemed to be
right up there with the Bohemians when it came to bad ideas. In the middle of
the noise, the Great Man began to speak, and as usual when he had something
to say, everybody hushed. He paused to light a cigarette, then gave me a benign
smile from his end of the table. "Peggy," he said, "did you tell your teacher you
I shook my head. "It ... it didn't seem to be the issue."
"Not the issue?" he said. I knew something was coming, because he was
using the tone that meant he and I were secret conspirators against Rules,
Women or Theories, depending. Even so, 1 was dumbfounded when he began
to explain — to everybody, now— that when he'd seen me writing backwards,
he'd decided to try teaching me to type, to see if that would help me get used
to seeing the way words were supposed to appear on the page. It was news to
me that he knew I was left-handed, let alone that I wrote backwards. As for
the lessons, I knew that if you wanted his attention, you had to do something
with him that he enjoyed, like typing, and you had to catch on fast or he got
bored— but I had never dreamed I'd been helping him work out an educa-
tional idea. That was nifty, especially when he wound up by giving Mother the
modest smile that meant he knew he was right."Maybe you should talk to that
teacher of hers, Ellen," he said. "Tell her Peggy uses all the right fingers, and she
can do around 40 words a minute copying — less, of course, if she has to think
up spelling for herself."
A murmur of admiration went around the table, and as 1 began to clear
the plates, one of the Classicists said how smart it was to see past the prob-
lem of penmanship into the problem of written communication. That gave
the Great Man an opportunity to say that typing helped with spelling, too,
because your fingers memorized the pattern of the letters, and everybody (in-
cluding me) saw right away how true that was. By the time Mother had served
up Grammy's special angel food cake, everybody was saying what a brilliant
teacher the Great Man was, and that turned into talk about his wonderful
new translation, with lots of readings from the advance copy of his new book,
which I fetched from his study after carefully washing my hands. Then there
were speeches and toasts in champagne for the guests and sparkling grape
juice for Grammy and me, and finally, the guests went into the living room
for coffee, which was my signal to say good night politely and to go upstairs.
24 The Mind's Eye
I always approached the moment nervously, because while it usually just
drew comments on how well brought up I was, sometimes one of the ladies
(or worse, one of the old men ) asked for a kiss good night, and then, of course,
everybody else had to show they liked children, too, and I had to deliver kisses
all round. Tonight, though, there were so many people and conversations that
only Grammy said good night back, and I slipped upstairs without any com-
ments at all.
It was cool and quiet in my room, and 1 undressed by the light of the
street lamp outside. The voices from the party drifted into the bathroom as I
brushed my teeth, and one of them was Mr. Zander's, talking quietly to some-
body about a poor kid who was going to have a tough life. I listened a little
more, but the only thing that floated upstairs was cigarette smoke, so 1 closed
my door and crawled under my blankets.
You were supposed to be good to the unfortunate people in the world,
so 1 said a special prayer for the kid who was going to have a tough life. Then
for a little while, 1 thought about Odysseus and puzzles, but I was, too sleepy
to figure it all out. Pulling my pillow over my head, I left Miss Coffin, Mary
Anderson, and luck and truth all behind me. I slipped into the real world,
where I lay on a bed of green moss, sniffing the lemon smell of a crushed fern
and listening to a white-throated sparrow sing its four sad notes in the humid
The Mind's Eye 25
BY TED GILLEY
y secret," Alex said to me and Steve, "is simple: I don't inhale.
That's where you get yourself in trouble. But if you don't in-
hale. . . t He shrugged and looked at us with slanted eyes.
Did we believe him? I think we did — 1 wanted to.
Alex took a drag from his cigarette and held the smoke in — but his thin
chest seemed to swell. He tilted his head up. Then he blew the smoke out in a
blue, liquid stream.
"You are too, inhaling," 1 said. "I can tell."
But I couldn't.
I'd never smoked, and I was sure Steve hadn't. I was dying to try— and I
would, but not today. Not in front of witnesses. When Alex leveled the pack
at me, I shook my head and looked away. Why did 1 feel shame for refusing?
But if Steve shared my feeling, he didn't show it. He just looked at Alex with a
queer, detached stare that reminded me of how I'd once seen my father look
at his brother, my uncle Lee, when he showed up late at our house, drunk. "Go
home, Lee," he'd said. 1 could see the pain in Dads face, but I could see the
26 The Mintfs Eye
I think Steve was the kind of person who believes some things just don't
need saying— obvious things, I guess. Like once when we were in the woods,
a couple of years ago, and saw a tree fall. Fantastic — spooky, too. A big old
tree, nothing left to identify it, long rotted out and full of holes, standing dead.
But— falling just then, and our seeing it? Who besides birds and squirrels sees
such things? I couldn't shut up about it— I was that excited. But Steve said
little. He smiled as we looked over the wreck and said,"It had to fall sometime,
didn't it?" His attitude seemed to be, So a tree fell? What was there, really, to
say? But as we walked home, 1 telt an almost tangible space open between us.
Alex put his cigarettes away and zipped his jacket neatly to the collar.
It was October, In a month, the president would travel to Dallas, and lots of
tilings would change, and then soon it would be 1 964, and nothing would ever
be the same again for me or anyone 1 knew,
"What about lip cancer? Don't you worry about that?" I wanted to get to
the bottom of this.
"Hell, no," Alex replied, combing dark hair back over his bony skull. "Got-
ta die of something."
» • *
Alex got his drivers license and a car in the same week. Some mornings
he'd swing by the bus stop and offer us a ride, and on those days we arrived in
style. 1 thought so, anyway; Steve sat stiffly in the back seat, cold air from his
open window pouring in, smoke from Alex's cigarette streaming out.
I had my license, but I wasn't allowed to drive on my own: Until I paid
for my share of the insurance premium, I was restricted to outings with my
parents, and those were not much fun— you can't get away from them when
they're sitting beside you, otfering constructive criticism. My after-school job
at a drugstore in the shopping center near our house would take care of the
situation, but it was slow going. In the meantime, in a plan to wean Dad away
from his car, I adopted it, washing it every weekend and starting it up for him
on the cold mornings. After our drives, I'd slip the keys into my pocket so he'd
have to ask me for them. ("Sure. Here you go, Dad.") But mostly I walked, add-
ing up how much I saved, how much more I needed.
Coming out of the drugstore one night, I spotted Alex's car in the lot,
which at that hour was all but deserted. It was definitely Alex's: a black '56 Ford
hardtop, whitewalls, plain silver caps. Two glimmering licks of chrome ran
down the doors beneath the windows. The car appeared to be empty, but as I
walked closer, I made out a figure on the driver's side; then, the flaring orange
eye of a cigarette, and smoke drifting along the inside of the windshield.
• • ■
The cigarette made me dizzy. I laid my head to rest against the window
and closed my eyes, thankful, in my embarrassment, for the cover of darkness.
Alex was talking, but he wasn't fooled. "First one gets to you, don't it?" A smile
pulled his coyote eyes into tighter slits. "You'll get used to it."
We talked. He said that his mother had left when he was a kid, He didn'l
remember her. (I couldn't imagine this.) He'd been sent to live with relatives,
for a few years, then brought home by his father, with whom he now lived. "It's
just me and him," he said, and keyed the ignition. "Where can I drop you?"
On the way, he told me how he'd got this car. Towed into his dad's body
shop after an accident, the car needed a lot of work. Alex repaired the body,
got the bumpers straightened and rechromed, stripped and replaced the elec-
trical, lights and most of the glass. He put his finger to, but didn't touch, the
spotiess glass above the steering wheel. "Fellas head went through right here."
We were rolling down Route 220. Alex extended his right arm. In the light
that periodically sliced through the car, I could see a blunt, ugly scar lying
across the meat of the palm. "CouldVe lost my thumb," he said. "Sheet metal
curled back at me."
• • •
An incident at school:
I was between classes with the rest of them. I saw Alex and Steve standing
at Alex's locker. Steve had his hand out. Alex, looking bemused, reached into
his pocket, took out his Zippo and handed it to Steve. Steve nodded and, look-
ing around, spotted me and waved. When Alex turned his head in my direc-
tion, Steve slipped the lighter into his pocket, Alex looked back.
When I reached them, two other guys, friends of Steve's, had sidled up,
and the three of them were wearing shit-eating grins. Alex glanced at them,
and got it. His voice, when he spoke, was soft.
"I want the lighter back."
"Lighter? I don't have a lighter."
"OK. My lighter. I want it back."
Steve took his hands out of his pockets and spread his arms.
"Hey! What would I want a lighter for? I don't even smoke."
People were slowing down, watching. I was standing just behind Alex.
28 Ike Mind's Eye
He spoke again— softly still, but his voice shook in the growing quiet of the
"I know where it is. I want it back. Give it to me."
"I don't know what you're talking about, boy," Steve said.
"Maybe you should just give it back," I said.
Steve looked past Alex, at me. "Maybe you should kiss my ass." He turned
his big face back to Alex, "You shouldn't smoke, anyway," he said. "It's bad for
you, it'll stunt your—"
Alex grabbed Steve's shirt and slammed him into the locker. You could
hardly have seen it happen. He put his face — a red, glaring skull— into Steve's.
"Give it BACK, I know you have it and I want it BACK"
Steve's face was screwed into a frown, but it was fright. He dug into his
pocket and brought out the lighter. Taking it, Alex flipped it open, thumbed
the wheel and a yellow-tipped pale flame lolled out. Alex thrust the lighter
into Steve's face and Steve twisted aside, trying to get out of Alex's grip. Steve's
friends had faded back.
"Jesus, stop, Alex," 1 said.
The lighter closed with a click. A little whiff of Steve's burned eyebrows
scented the air.
Someone said, "Holy shit" and a teacher's voice rose: "What's going on?
Let me through, people. May I get through here?"
People stood watching Alex. I saw him myself as if for the first time: the
slicked -back hair, white face, dark eyes, the anonymous, neat, nearly colorless
The teacher pushed through and demanded to know what was going on.
Steve had fled and no one spoke, but sensing the trouble was with Alex, the
teacher took his arm. Alex threw the man's hand off, He zipped his jacket
Without a word to me or anyone else, he closed his locker and walked down
the hallway and out of school. He never came back.
That summer, 1 worked full-time at the drugstore, and with the extra
money, I was able to buy my share of the car insurance. My dad surprised me
by having a key made for me. He tossed it to me and said, "Better than having
both of us asking for mine all the time."
My first solo trip was to Alex's father's garage. I hadn't seen Alex around,
but I knew he had been working there ever since he left school. I further knew
Vie Mind's Eye 29
that his father and Steve's had gone to school to discuss the incident that pre-
cipitated his leaving and that voices had been raised.
A girl 1 knew, who was in the outer office at the time, told me that Alex's
dad— a big man in a grease-monkey suit, she said— told Steve's father that he
would be happy to step outside with him and settle things and that Steve's dad
had apparently declined.
" Til take your effing head off,' " she reported the mechanic saying. "I'm
quoting! But don't, you know, quote me."
Who would I tell? 1 hardly saw Steve anymore, and when I did, he'd shoot
me that queer, puzzled look of his and turn aside. And I didn't much like the.
jocks he'd begun hanging around with— but that, in part, was a kind of jealou-
sy. Hie fact that he'd found other friends just reinforced the fact that I hadn't.
I drove slowly, savoring the ride. I had long since found my favorite radio
station and locked it in, 1 turned it on now and let the music carry me down
I found Alex sitting in the sun outside the garage. He looked, at first
glance, about the same, but as 1 pulled in and killed the engine, I could see he
was thinner. And something was missing — something in him was different.
He sat with his arms around his knees and didn't look up until I tapped the
horn. Then I saw that both his eyes were blackened.
Alex walked over to the car's passenger door and looked inside. He wiped
his oil-stained hands slowly back and forth on the legs of his jeans, then
opened the door. "I'm gonna get your car dirty."
"Don't worry about it." The car's spotlessness looked silly to me now.
He got in and closed the door.
"What the hell happened to you?"
Alex tilted the rearview and looked at himself. He pushed the mirror
back. "I had an accident."
"When was this? You mean you crashed your car?"
From inside the garage came a thick, sweet drone of country music and
the ring of a steel tool striking cement.
"Yeah. Not really. I was in a fight. It was an accident."
"An accidental fight? Oh, man."
Alex put his head back on the seat and closed his eyes. "Christ," he said.
"You really don't know anything, do you?"
"No, I don't. Tell me."
"I'll teli you this," he said. "A blow to the head— anywhere on the head. It
can give you a black eye."
"Jesus, what happened?"
"Yeah, well, it's true. I read it somewhere." He slapped his thighs to end the
conversation. "Anyway, its no big deal."
"Yeah," I said. "You gotta die of something."
Alex looked over at me and the coyote shadow shimmered over his fea-
tures. "Is that right? Hell, 1 guess it is." He took hold of the door handle. "I bet-
ter go. My old man'll be after me."
"Was it Steve?"
Alex sighed and slumped back. He took two cigarettes from the pack and lit
them, then passed one over to me. "Look, man, what can I tell you? 1 been riding
around all my life and I keep running into things. You know?" He smiled. "And
what makes you think Steve could touch me? Steve. Steve's a child!'
A big, nearly bald head with a sunburned scalp and a cold, mokled-look-
ing face came out of the garage. He was holding a hammer.
"Hey! Coffee break's over. Get in here." He glanced at me and shifted the
hammer to his other hand, then fixed his eyes on Alex again. "Now, boy."
"I'm coming." Alex gathered himself and got out of the car, then ducked
down and looked back in.
"Watch yourself," he said.
"I will. I ll see you."
"Yeah." The word was barley spoken.
Alex walked to the door of the shop. His father moved aside to let him
pass, but Alex hesitated; he stopped and looked up into his father's face. Then
When ten or eleven days passed and I hadn't seen Alex around town, I
drove over to his house.
I closed up the drugstore at a little after nine— the pharmacist had left at
six— and drove out to where Alex and his father lived, down along the Smith
River, in the shadow of the Fieldale mills. Their house was a small postwar
ranch, a beat-up box in the first stages of decay. It appeared at first to be dark
inside the house, but light from a television set played behind the venetian-
blinded big window. Two cars, one of them Alex's '56, sat crowded together in
1 walked up the steps of the concrete stoop and raised my fist to knock.
But at that moment, there was a crash from inside, then the sound of some-
thing big hitting a wall or a floor. The door vibrated. Voices were raised from
The Mind's Eye 31
somewhere inside— farther back in the house, I thought. It was hard to tell; the
windows, the ones that [ could see, were shut.
The voices suddenly became close, looming up behind the door. I heard
Alex's father shout, "Didn't I tell you? Didn't I? You don't listen to me, boy."
There was a reply I couldn't make sense of, then a horrifying succession of
sounds, a blizzard of crashes and grunts and the deep, popped-water sound
of flesh getting punched, then Alex's voice crying,"Please don't, Daddy, please
don't, please! Please! PLEASE PLEASE — "
1 beat on the door with my fists, then ten, twenty times, as hard as 1 could.
Anything to stop the awful pleading. I stood back and kicked the door, mak-
ing the cheap wood jump and rattle. Then words came out of my mouth-
strange, unmediated words that got me into trouble later. But, of course, by
then it didn't matter.
"I'll burn it down! I'LL BURN it, see if I don't, you bastard!"
I stumbled down the porch steps, tripped, and fell down. I sat sprawled in
the grass and watched the door for a sign, waited for it to open, all the while
saying to myself, Please nothing happen. Please nothing happen. There was no
sound, no evidence of movement from the house. The blue television light
continued to flicker like heat lightning behind the blinds. Gradually 1 began
to be aware of my scorched breath, my pounding heart.
» » •
I drove fast up into the hills that night, pushing Dad's car to do more
than it wanted to do. By the time the pavement had disintegrated into a gravel
one-lane, I'd slowed down. 1 drove steadily, then, into the night. I went quite a
distance, and each trip since has taken me farther away from Alex.
It wasn't me who burned the garage down.
It did burn, though, a week later, and beautifully, filling the night sky with
rich, rolling black smoke, The police talked to me about it, but since Alex had
vanished on the night of the fire— and after what I told them— they left me
I still go up into the hills, though I am now far from that place. If it's sum-
mer, I might stay out late, sitting in my car, smoking. I would like to quit, but
I don't. Not yet. I sit out late, sometimes all night, waiting for the light, waiting
for the trees to become visible again. Listening, toward morning, for the sound
one of them would make if it fell.
32 The Minds Eye
L. C. Smith and the Color of
BY BEN JACQUES
recently read that Cormac McCarthys old typewriter, a portable Olivetti
on which he wrote Wo Country for Old Men, All the Pretty Horses and
much more, was sold at Christie's for $254,500.
Which put me in mind of my first typewriter— a black L. C. Smith, a heavy
birdcage manufactured by Smith and Corona. I found it in 1972 in a Goodwill
store in Tucson.
First, 1 removed the worn roller and took it to a shop to have it replatened.
Then I stopped at a gas station and with an air hose blew the dust out of the
cage. At home 1 set it on a newspaper, sprayed it with WD40 and let it mari-
Cleaned with a toothbrush and a cloth, it gleamed. The black roman key
letters, some tilting on their axes, looked sharp in their round frames. The
chrome carriage return lever, shaped in a crescent, felt smooth on my left in-
dex finger, Twisting open a paper clip, 1 dug out the ink from the tiny loops in
the "e," "a" and "g" keys.
At the drugstore, I bought two black-and-red ribbons. Finally, the type-
writer was ready. My wife sewed a cover from scraps of black velvet, on which
she embroidered flowers. I wrote her a poem, using the asterisk key to insert
red asters between each word.
I was between college and graduate school, working odd jobs— mostly
unskilled labor — picked up at Manpower, Inc. For several months, I worked at
the Anaconda research center east of Tucson.
At seven a.m., I would stop for breakfast at Danny's, a downtown cafe
where workers gathered. There I would meet Sam Vogel. An older man with
receding, slicked-back hair, Sam was from Brooklyn. He had survived both a
failed marriage and the collapsed garment industry. I met him at a lumber-
yard, stacking two-by-fours. It was hot and the work was monotonous, and we
were both happy to get assigned to Anaconda.
I was also, at this time, writing poems. On my L. C. Smith, I began typing
them out and sending them to small magazines and journals. One day I took
a letter with me to breakfast and passed it across the eggs and hash to Sam.
It was my first acceptance. California Quarterly would publish a poem in an
Sam read the letter, then looked at me sideways.
"How much they payin' you?"
I explained that they weren't paying me anything. But I would get four
copies of the journal.
"Pass me the salsa," Sam said.
Over the next year, Sam and I became close. He often joined us and our
three-year -old daughter for holiday meals and helped out when 1 needed an
extra hand. Sometimes in the evening we would step into our tiny yard to
smoke cigars and watch the light fade to a dusky purple on the mountains.
But it was our work together that gave me fodder for poems. At the re-
search center, we stocked equipment, delivered supplies, painted, cleaned the
warehouse and kept up the grounds. Constantly joking, Sam, nevertheless,
tackled every task with a boyish zeal. He despised clock watchers. Once, walk-
ing through the administrative wing, Sam glanced at an executive tilted back
in his chair. "Himl-kuker" he muttered. Sky gazer.
One day Sam was clearing weeds that had sprung up around the water
tower. He was using a scythe, cutting around the clumps of marigolds that
34 The Mind's Eye
I'll let the following poem, one of the first typed on my L. C. Smith, pub-
lished by Wormwood Review, tell the rest of the story:
Sam, from Brooklyn,
out cutting desert weeds
around the water tower,
spies a snake—
"Whaddy ya mean, 'What color was it?'"
he snaps at me at lunch.
(I simply wanted to know.)
"You a wise guy or somethin?
I'll tell ya what
color it was.
It was snake color!"
I'm no Cormac McCarthy, and no one is likely to bid on my L. C. Smith.
A relic, it now anchors a table I use for conferencing with students. I'll keep
it where it is— to remind me of Sam and those early days. It also reminds me
how deliberate, and how precious, the act of writing is— something I'd like my
students to know.
Die Minds Eye 35
Living and Learning
BY ADRIENNE WOOTTERS
To some living outside the academic bubble, sabbatical leave is a lux-
ury. I beg to differ. Sabbatical, in the sense of taking a Sabbath rest, is
crucial to rejuvenation of the sabbatkal-taker's soul. For an academic,
it is generally one's scholarship that is rejuvenated, but often it is more than
one's publications that benefit. Sabbatical leave affords time to think and re-
flect. If travel is part of the leave, it gives a chance to see and experience people
and places on levels that cannot happen in a two-week vacation trip.
If a good sabbatical is characterized as one that challenges even as it re-
stores, then I had a great sabbatical experience. In 2009, 1 applied for and was
granted a Fulbright Award to teach physics at the Kigali Institute of Science
and Technology (KIST) in Rwanda for six months last year. My job at KIST
was to teach two courses to physics majors: solid-state physics for juniors and
statistical physics for seniors. The semester began January 1 1 and finished with
finals in mid-April. For the remaining few months of my stay, I worked with
five students on senior research projects and with the physics department on
program review and assessment. I will elaborate later on these experiences.
36 The Minds Eye
Intore dancers, Intore dancing is the traditional folk dancing.
Children learn Intore dancing in the same manner that American
children go to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. These dancers are a
group of young teenage boys from the village we were visiting.
The joy of the dance was palpable.
Rwanda today is stable, clean and orderly. Its capital city, Kigali, is consid-
ered the safest city in all of Africa. It is a country that businesses around the
world want to work with and in. In spite of its poverty, it has one of the highest
literacy rates in Africa— 77 percent, and growing. Being an educator, I paid
closest attention to the education system in Rwanda. The country is in des-
perate need of trained people in science, technology, business and economics
to build and maintain its economic infrastructure. In this article, I will share
some of my experiences of the country and my understanding of the current
state of its educational system. So as to give as complete a picture as possible,
I want to give some background about Rwanda, the genocide of 1994 and the
current state of the country.
Rwanda is a landlocked country in the center of the African continent.
Approximately, it shares its border with Uganda to its north, Tanzania to its
east, Burundi to its south and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to
its west. It is a small country, only slightly larger than Massachusetts. Its main
exports are coffee, tea and tin ore, but the vast majority of Rwandan citizens
have always been and continue to be subsistence farmers. The population of
this tiny country is approximately ten million; it is the most densely populated
The Mind's Eye 37
country in Africa. If you can imagine ten million people in Massachusetts liv-
ing primarily off the land, you begin to see the great challenge that Rwanda
faces. For each Rwandese, there is approximately 0.3 acre of arable land. The
land of Rwanda is beautiful and fertile, but there just is not enough of it to
sustain its people.
Hundreds of years ago, this region was inhabited solely by the Twa, a
pygmy race. Some hundreds of years ago, a Bantu tribe known as Hutu moved
into the area. There is no record of conflict between the Hutu and the Twa
people. (There was no written record until the Europeans came in 1894, but
neither is there any verbal record of conflict.) Maybe 100 years later (remem-
ber, there are only verbal records), another tribe, the Tutsis, moved into the
area. They were also Bantu, but their geographical origin remains unclear.
The Hutus were primarily farmers and the Tutsis were primarily cattle-
men. Over the centuries, the tribes coexisted. The common understanding is
that they lived together more or less peacefully, albeit with typical struggles
for land and power by various families and alliances. Over time, the cattle-
owning Tutsis became the kings and rulers of the region that approximates
Rwanda and Burundi. Cattle became a sign of wealth and a form of legal ten-
der, The Hutus served the Tutsis in a feudal system, Most, but not all, argue
that over time the distinction of Hutu and Tutsi became more economic than
genetic. A man of Hutu origin who came into wealth and became an owner of
more than ten cows would have been considered a Tutsi. The original Tutsis
were tall, thin and light-skinned, while Hutus were short, stocky and dark.
However, there had been enough intermarrying between the tribes over the
centuries that by the middle of the 20th century, definitive genetic determina-
tion of a Rwandan's tribal affiliation was difficult, if not impossible.
In 1 894, Germans colonized the area that is now Rwanda and Burundi.
They sent their missionaries to educate and convert the people to Christianity,
but otherwise they left the Rwandan kingdom to govern itself. They did sup-
port the tradition of the Tutsi as the elite ruling class, and supported efforts
to quell any Hutu rebellions, After World War J, Belgium was given Rwanda
by the League of Nations mandate to rule. The Belgian presence in Rwanda
was much more pronounced, particularly in terms of supervising education,
agricultural production and public works, The Belgians kept the existing Tutsi
royal family in power as their representative. lit what is widely considered a
move to keep political control, the Belgians further strengthened the status
quo by issuing cards in 1 934 that identified each person as Hutu, Tutsi or Twa.
38 The Mind's Eye
The classifications were generally based on physical characteristics. In the case
of physical ambiguity, the number of cattle the head of household owned de-
termined the label. If a head of household with indeterminate physical char-
acteristics (who may have had light skin but was of short stature, for example)
had ten or more cattle, he and his children were given Tutsi designation. His
wife's status would have been determined by her own physical characteristics
or her father's label. Before the racial strife of 1959, card-carrying Tutsis made
up about 1 5 percent of the total population but owned the vast majority of the
The strife that led to the genocide of 1994 was 100 years in the making.
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, with the help of the Belgians,
Tutsis became even more powerful; Hutus became more resentful of their
lower- class status. Both wanted to be free of the Belgians, but in different ways.
Beginning in the 1950s, while Tutsis worked for independence from Belgium
(while maintaining their political power), many Hutus longed for and worked
toward emancipation from what they considered a feudal society run by the
Tutsis. Those years of tension culminated in the first real modern conflict
between Tutsis and Hutus, known as the muyaga, or "wind of destruction." The
muyaga erupted in November 1959, after the suspicious death of Rwanda's king in
July of that year, and immediately following the near-deadly beating of a popular
Hutu politician. In that uprising, Hutus killed on the order of 20,000 Tutsis, and
some 150,000 others fled to Uganda and other neighboring countries.
In 1961, the country voted to become a republic; the Hutus held power
for the next 34 years. In those years, Tutsis were systematically marginalized
and persecuted by the Hutu government. There were several instances of iso-
lated violence against Tutsis, and a few instances of larger, coordinated events.
For example, in 1 974, after a coup (Hutu replacing Hutu) and a pledge to make
Rwanda better by getting rid of the Tutsis, hundreds of Rwandan Tutsis were
killed and many more thousands were forced into exile.
While the Hutus were in power for those 34 years, many Tutsi refugees
languished as second-class citizens in refugee camps in Uganda. Refugees
were allowed to live only in designated camps, and work was difficult to come
by. Children born in those camps were not afforded Ugandan citizenship. Un-
able to be assimilated into Ugandan society, those Tutsis longed to go home.
In time, a group of Rwandan refugees organized themselves as the Rwandan
B(< Mind's Eye 39
Patriotic Front (RPF). This army was led by Paul Kagame, who is now presi-
dent of Rwanda. (Kagame was a toddler when his family fled to the Ugandan
In 1990, the RPF invaded Rwanda in the hope of restoring a government
that would allow the 500,000 diaspora Tutsis to return home. That invasion
turned into a four-year civil war that would culminate in genocide.
The roots of the genocide can be found in radio broadcasts and news-
paper commentaries. Rwandese usually have one ear to their radios, and the
dominant voice during the period 1993—1994 was Radio Television Libre
des Mille Collines (RTLM). That station broadcast racist propaganda against
Tutsis and any person or group that sympathized with tfsem. Calling Tutsis
imyenzi (cockroaches), the radio announcers called for their "extermination,"
the wiping out of all Tutsis in Rwanda. As the announcers spewed forth their
hate radio, others in the government and military were planning the system-
atic wiping out of Tutsis and any who would oppose their plan. Detailed lists
of where Tutsi families lived were compiled, while men were trained to use the
lists to go from house to house to find and kill them.
One government official who was less on board with the notion of wip-
ing out the Tutsis was the president of the country, Juvenal Habyarimana. In
a move to end the civil war, he had gone to Arusha, Tanzania, to work out a
peace deal with the RPF that featured a sharing of power by Hutus and Tutsis.
With this compromise government, diaspora Tutsis would be able to go home.
After the signing of the Arusha Peace Accords on April 7, 1994, Habyarimana
flew home to Kigali with his colleague, the president of Burundi, whose coun-
try was going through its own Hutu/Tutsi conflict. As the plane prepared to
land at the Kigali airport late that night, it was shot down, and all on the plane
died. By the following morning, the systematic killing of Tutsis and moderate
Hutus began. The killing would continue for 100 days, when Kagame's RPF
army would finally take over Kigali, ending the civil war. The final death toll
is estimated at 800,000.
The details of the genocide are as horrific as one can possibly imagine. I
remember exactly where I was when I first heard about it on the radio. I was
driving along a lovely stretch of road in the Eerkshires, in the bloom of spring,
exulting in the beauty of the day. On that day, the announced death toll was
only 100,000, which was difficult enough to comprehend. Jolting myself out
of my local reverie, as 1 drove I tried to comprehend what it would mean for
100,000 people to be killed. All of Berkshire County? Maybe. But even that
40 The Mind's Eye
was difficult to envision, i then imagined what it would be like if each human
killed were represented by a single piece of paper being pulled off a stack of
paper, wadded up and thrown away. The act of taking, wadding and throwing
away a single piece of paper could take three seconds. One hundred thousand
pieces of paper would correspond to 200 reams, which would be a 33-foot-
high stack. It would take three and a half days working around the clock to
take, wad and toss each piece. Given the actual number of deaths, the image is
even harder to absorb: Eight hundred thousand pieces of paper corresponds
to a stack of printer paper about as tall as a 25-story building. It would take
four weeks to name each victim in that manner.
Frankly, it's difficult for me to write any more than this about the geno-
cide. The systematic hacking of body parts with machetes, the rape of women
in front of their dying husbands, the torture of children in the presence of
their bleeding parents, the complete disintegration of any form of civil society,
are graphically explained by many others in books, songs and videos. In this
article, 1 want to focus on Rwanda's recovery and where it is now, 17 years later.
In the aftermath of the genocide, the country had to be rebuilt. After getting
food and clean water, the most urgent need was stability. One of the government's
first decrees was the aboiition of identity cards. There is no longer any official des-
ignation of Tutsi or Hutu, and to label someone or some group with either term is
taboo."We are all Rwandans now" is the rallying cry.
Vital to stability was dealing with the nearly 200,000 " genocidaires" who
had participated in the killing. Rwanda's historic gacaca courts, which are local
courts presided over by town elders, sent 90,000 genocidaires to overflowing
prisons. In 2003, in a move to relieve the severe prison overcrowding, 25,000
inmates who were guilty of participating in the killing but not initiating or
leading were released. Assimilating the killers back into the villages was no
mean feat, but through counseling, reparation work and government support,
murderers and victims now live side by side in relative harmony. One example
of government effort to facilitate peace is a program in which those convicted
of genocidal crimes build houses for the widows of their village. Another ex-
ample is Umuganda, a mandatory monthly get-together for all members of a
village. On the last Saturday morning of each month, villagers (or city neigh-
borhoods) work together on a common public project, such as repairing a
wall, weeding a lot or painting a school.
The Mind's Eye 41
The road to Ruhengeri from Kigali. All main roads, which connect the larger
towns to Kigali, are well maintained by the government. A motor vehicle on the
road that is not public transportation or a truck is rare. The vast majority of the
people walk or take public transportation, and a few own bicydes.
Kagame's model country is Singapore: clean, orderly, efficient, produc-
tive. Kigali's streets are well maintained and swept every day. Plastic shopping
bags are illegal, because they become street litter. Most selling of goods on the
street is forbidden, as is begging. (That's not to say it doesn't happen, but the
people who do it make themselves scarce if the law drives by.) Rwanda is also
expensive to live in. Housing in Kigali can reach New York prices. Food prices
are similar to those in America. Here's why; After the genocide, hundreds of
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) moved in. As the economy grows,
European, Chinese and American entrepreneurs are also moving in. Rwan-
dese landlords and shopkeepers can get the prices they want from the rich
foreigners, and prices remain high for all. (Currently, a washing machine costs
$1,200; an oscillating fan goes for $70.) The rationale for expensive goods is
that the country is landlocked, and while the roads in Rwanda may be new
and well maintained, the roads leading to Rwanda from Uganda and Tanzania
Things we Americans "need" are generally luxury items for Rwandese.
Only five percent of the country's households have electricity or running wa-
ter. People get their water from a neighborhood tap or well, Bathing is done
when it rains. Most clothing worn is either secondhand or simple traditional
garb. The marketplaces have stalls filled to the rafters with clothes we Ameri-
cans have given to Goodwill. The traditional Rwandan diet is simple white
42 The Minds Eye
starches (rice, potatoes, plantains, cassava) garnished with beans, a few veg-
etables (tomatoes and avocados are affordable) and an occasional chunk of
meat. Only the rich have gas stoves; cooking is done on charcoal stoves,
The government's mission is laid out in Rwanda Vision 2020, a collec-
tion of outcomes and benchmarks created with the goal of making Rwanda a
middle-income country by 2020. As with any government initiative anywhere,
Rwanda is currently altering its goals as a result of its 2010 review. A middle-
income country is currently defined as having an average annual household
income of $3,500. The current average income in Rwanda is $450 per year, up
from $230 in 2000 but far from middle income.
Integral to Rwanda Vision 2020 is finding work other than farming for
the Rwandese. The vision is for Rwanda to become the technological hub of
Africa, the Singapore of Africa. !n order to reach that goal, the country needs
scientists and engineers, and it needs a way to create that workforce.
Kigali institute of Science and Technology was started in 1997 and grad-
uated its first class in 2000. It is a public university, subject to the rulings of the
Ministry of Education. Its campus sits on the former Rwandan army base near
the center of Kigali. It was on those grounds that the Intemhamwe, the Hutu
paramilitary organization responsible for the genocide, trained.
Getting into KIST is highly competitive, and students apply to a particu-
lar major when they apply for admission. As a technical university, KIST of-
fers majors in civil, mechanical and electrical engineering, biology, chemistry,
physics, math and food science. There are many more students who want to
major in engineering than there are slots in that field. Many of those students
are accepted into their second- or third-choice major. Such students accept
those majors because it is their onSy shot at a university education. Most of
my students, who were all physics majors, would have preferred to study en-
With few exceptions, the students are there courtesy of the government;
100 percent of their tuition and fees are paid, and they receive a living stipend
of approximately $45 each month. KIST provides subsidized meals at a dollar
per meal. Of the 3,000 students, 250 live on campus free of charge. The oth-
ers usually share small houses in the adjacent neighborhood, A typical living
situation is for six students to share a small one-bedroom house that has nei-
ther electricity nor running water
'Die Mind's Eye 43
Teaching at KIST
Teaching at KJST was the most challenging teaching experience of my
career to date. To begin with, the students do not have textbooks; they are
simply too expensive, even the discounted international versions. The KIST
library has a haphazard collection of books, all of them donated. Other than
the professor, the Internet is the only potential source of information for the
students. My struggles with KIST began and ended with the quest for ad-
equate technology for the students.
A very small number of students are wealthy enough to own computers.
As of this writing, regular computer access for KIST students is limited to five
desktop stations in the library and any computers that a department can get
for its own students. In the new science laboratory building, there is a room
of 50 computers for teaching, but students have access to them only if they
have a class in that room. When there is no class, the room is kept locked. The
physics department managed to find four old computers that it keeps in its
teaching labs for student use whenever the doors are open.
Even when a student can get onto a computer (which is usually infected
with several viruses), there is the challenge of getting online. In the physics lab,
the Internet was accessible 70 percent of the time. When one could get online,
the download rate on a good day was 40 kilobytes a second, comparable to
dial-up speed. (1 do not exaggerate. I took data!) On slow days, the download
Third-year physics majors. This is a course in solid state physics, lhe stu-
dents in the picture are working on an in-class group problem.
44 lhe Minds Eye
rate could be as low as two kilobytes a second. Virus infections also slowed
and in one case shut down a computer for a few days. Some students use In-
ternet cafes, but most cannot afford regular time at one.
All this is to say that I was the sole source of information for my students.
In the classroom, I had one (four-by-eight-foot) blackboard at the front of the
room on which to write. Instructors also write out notes for the students to
photocopy. I was asked to keep the notes to two pages per week so the students
could afford the photocopy fee of three cents per page. (KIST will not pay for
their copies. To keep professors from overusing the one copier in the building,
they must fill out a request form to be signed by the head of department
any time copies are needed, even a single copy of one page.)
At KIST, all classes are taught in English, [t is a rare student who is fluent
in English when entering the university, and all students take five semesters of
English language within their first two years. By their third year, it is assumed
they are fluent readers, writers and speakers of English. This was not my ex-
perience. I had a class of 47 juniors learning solid-state physics and a class of
38 seniors learning statistical mechanics. In either course, perhaps ten of the
students were fluent in English. Even fewer of those could understand my
American accent and keep up with my normally fast rate of speaking. 1 tried
as hard as I could to slow down and enunciate clearly enough for them, but it
was not sufficient. My poor students! With the lack of a textbook, limited ac-
cess to the Internet and the inscrutable speech of their professor, their reliable
information each week was limited to two pages of typed notes.
1 do think the weekly discipline of writing those notes made my lectures
better, but I will never know, because I never could determine how much of
my lectures were understood. Out of politeness or timidity, the students would
not ask me to repeat if they did not understand. As all professors know, one
cannot assume that students understand because they do not ask questions.
Even when one asks for questions, students tend to keep mum. That is why
many of us use active learning techniques in class, such as group work. When
students engage with one another in learning, both professor and students
are able to assess whether they really understand and can utilize the infor-
mation—it is a great reality check. At first, I did not do much in-class group
work because I felt the pressure to present content material. Even quizzes
took from precious class time. About halfway through the semester, though,
I reminded myself that presenting information that is not absorbed is simply
wasting time. I made the decision to cut down on the amount of content and
The Mind's Eye 45
Fourth-year-project students. These are three of my five project students:
Anastase, Phocas and Alphonse. Here we are looking at and trying to under-
stand Anastase's data.
focus a bit more on problem solving. It was at that point that I realized just
how clueless my students had been.
One would think that I would have gotten feedback from the students'
homework. However, the homework that they turned in was generally not
their own. Grading was easy because the homework was largely identical,
down to the careless mistakes. 1 emphasized to the students that they were
hurting themselves by not attempting to do the homework themselves, but
to no avail. After some asking around, I found that copying homework is the
done thing, and that professors generally look the other way. It seemed that
the beauty of the finished product (done in ink, with impeccable penmanship)
was more important than the product itself.
Physics Program Review
At the same time I was teaching, I worked to guide the physics depart-
ment through review of their relatively young program. When doing program
review, looking at curriculum is a minor portion of the task. Fundamental
components of program review are understanding where the students are
coming from, what their goals are, what the department's goals for them are
and how the program can help the students attain those goals. I met with a
subcommittee of the department regularly during the course of five months,
and it was through those conversations that I came to better understand who
my students were.
46 The Mind's Eye
These students are among the cream of the crop of Rwanda's current edu-
cational system. They have come to KIST naively expecting that when they
graduate, they will be presented with a well-paying job in a technical field
or in civil service. In general, they are not interested in pursuing the esoteric
questions of physics; they are interested in supporting themselves and their
families. (I had several students who were responsible for finding funds for
their younger siblings to go to school.)
For the most part, my KIST students were very good at working math
problems that were presented as straightforward problems. They can solve
calculus problems when presented with exercises. However, if they are given a
word problem that requires calculus to solve, they often do not know what to
do. I often tell my students that math is a box of tools that are used to answer a
question. Continuing with that metaphor, imagine a student who knows how
to hammer nails but does not know how to use the hammer to put together
a wooden box.
We professors in America complain often and loudly about our students'
poor writing and reasoning skills. But we take for granted that they have had
many opportunities, from high school on, to learn to make reasoned argu-
ments. In Rwanda, one cannot make that assumption. Those students have not
read or written regularly. (There is currently not a single public library in the
whole of the country.) They take English-language courses, but they do not
take a course that features cither regular reading or writing. Physics students
currently do not write a single paper while at KIST until their fourth year,
when they must write a 30-page thesis. There are students at KIST who have
never written a paper in their lives.
In response, the physics department came up with a list of small changes
to their curriculum that it hopes will lead to good, measurable results. First,
students need to read and write regularly. To that end, in one course per year,
they will weekly read and summarize scientific articles. Second, students
need to develop their scientific -thinking skills. Currently, they do one large
research project their last year, but there is no other formal research experi-
ence to prepare them for that capstone assignment. Beginning this year, first-,
second- and third-year students will do one miniproject each year that will be
incorporated into the course work of one of their classes.
As I worked with my colleagues to understand our students' backgrounds
and needs, 1 found out more about their primary and secondary educational
experiences, and how they contributed to their university education.
The Mind's Eye 47
K- 12 Education
Primary school, kindergarten through eighth grade, is compulsory and
free in Rwanda. However, the quality of that education depends on whether
the child is in a private or a public school. The vast majority of the country's
children are in publicly financed schools. The average class size is 50-70 stu-
dents in a single room, even for the youngest kindergarteners. In that class-
room, there will be one teacher, one chalkboard, no books. Access to paper,
pens, etc., is limited, as those are precious commodities.
Primary education largely consists of rote learning. Critical thinking, shar-
ing different points of view and problem solving are not part of the curriculum.
In math, it is the working of exercises, but not the solving of problems, that re-
quires thought. Similarly, science education consists of memorization of facts.
Students are called upon to give back memorized answers, but they are not
encouraged to ask questions for clarification.
From what I suspect is the Belgian influence on education in Rwanda,
from early on students are given pens to write with, not pencils. (While there,
1 tried to buy a pencil once, and had a hard time finding them in the store. The
pencils were as expensive as the nicer pens.) It seems also that good penman-
ship is prized, but not necessarily the content that is written.
Secondary school is optional and not free. The average cost for tuition,
uniform and supplies is $300-$5G0 each year. About 20 percent of children
go on to secondary school. Some are able to win scholarships or get loans and
tuition reduction from the government; for most families, sending a child to
secondary school is a huge sacrifice. Secondary schools vary greatly in terms
of class size, resources, etc. However, it seems that the value of learning by rote
and doing exercises devoid of context continues.
The Role of the Government
Rwanda's Ministry of Education sets the learning standards for all educa-
tion in the country, kindergarten through university. It is engaged in creating
curriculum that will prepare students for the jobs in technology that the gov-
ernment is hoping to create. The Ministry has created partnerships with other
countries that have resulted in advice on policy and donations of educational
materials. As an example, K1ST has an ongoing relationship with Universitat
Kaiserslautern in Germany, which has furnished KIST's physics department
with equipment for teaching labs and regularly visits and makes recommen-
dations for educational improvements. The university also accepts and funds
48 The Mind's Eye
15 students each year from KIST as transfer students to its undergraduate
programs in Mainz.
Historically, Rwanda's people were bilingual: All Rwandans speak Kin-
yarwanda and many speak French. From 1994 to 2008, English was added
to the list of official languages. In 2008, as a snub to France, the government
decreed that the official languages would be Kinyarwanda and English only.
As of January 2010 (the same year Rwanda joined the Commonwealth), all
classes from fourth grade through university are now to be taught in English
only. The teachers were given two months of language instruction to prepare
them for the move from French to English in the classroom.
In response to recommendations that students need research experience,
in 2007, the Ministry decreed that all students graduating from any university
in Rwanda would undertake a fourth -year project in which they researched
a problem in their field and at the end of their last year, write a thesis and
present their work in a 15-minute talk, The average thesis size is 30 pages.
This is a laudable effort to increase the quality of the students, but the man-
ner in which it was implemented is problematic on several levels. This new
requirement is an unfunded mandate. Each student must do an individual
project under the guidance of a faculty member, but the departments are not
given more resources or faculty to cover the added responsibility. The phys-
ics department at KIST has six full-time faculty members, and there were 37
students in last year's fourth-year class. There are 48 students in this years
graduating class. I and my husband (also a physicist, who was along for the
trip) were able to take five students each, as did most of the other faculty, on
top of their already overloaded teaching schedules.
Students write a proposal for research at the beginning of their fourth
year, in January. If the proposal is accepted by their department, the student
receives approximately $200 from the government to pay for research mate-
rials and printing and binding costs of the thesis. Unfortunately, the money
does not appear until the month the students defend. This means that
they are dependent on their departments for materials and means to do their
work. Individual departments do not have budgets, so if the materials are not
already at hand, the project cannot be done.
At KIST, one of the students' English-language courses is ostensibly a tech-
nical-writing course. They have no other formal writing or reading course.
Students are required to write their theses in English. While this requirement
is consistent with the English-only classroom, the students are not fluent
The Mind's Eye 49
enough in English to write even a short paper, let alone a 30-page thesis. Ad-
ditionally, they do not have the reading and writing experience that enables
them to write, in any language, such a momentous piece. Predictably, plagia-
rism is a problem.
Final Impressions and Thoughts
In spite of my negative words here, 1 have great hope for the future of
Rwanda, it has come a very long way, but there is still a very long way to go.
While working at KIST, my struggle to get Internet access and virus pro-
tection on the computers for the students dominated many of my days. Those
whose jobs it was to fix these problems either denied that there was a problem
or were often missing. Any success I had was short term, and the computers
are now back to the status quo. The administration was not interested in hear-
ing about what did not work. The buildings in which I taught were built in
2001 and 2009 and are prematurely aging. There was insufficient furniture in
the classrooms, and what was there was falling apart. In the big lecture halls,
for instance, only half of the seats had functioning desks. Meanwhile, the ad-
ministration is working on creating a new architecture major and building
a large new facility to house the nascent program. Maintaining the current
structures and providing for the current students is not a priority. As it was
for my students' homework, it seems that appearance is more important than
The slowness of the Internet is due to Rwanda's limited access, For a few
years the country has been working toward laying an optical cable that will
bring high-speed Internet to all corners of the country. While in the country,
we saw many crews digging ditches and laying the cable; it is expected that it
will be functional by next year. When that happens, one hopes that Rwanda's
schools and universities will be able to take full advantage.
It is not enough for the country to be hooked up to high-speed access to
the Internet. For the schools and universities to utilize it, their students must
have easy access to an adequate number of virus-free computers. They must
be able to get at the information available, and that information must be free.
There is a lot of open source information in the introductory sciences. The
challenge is that because there is so much information out there, it can be
difficult to figure out what the best free sources are, The technical majors at
KIST have the opposite problem: There are few reliable sources that are use-
ful in upper-level courses. This is where science, technology, engineering and
SO The Mind's Eye
math (STEM) college and university faculty in the developed world can make
a difference. We can write those texts and, instead of taking our writing to
publishers, we can put our work on the Web, either through our professional
education sites or through one of the open-source Web sites, such as Con-
In order for Rwanda's vision for prosperity through technology to be
successful, there must be a paradigm shift at the administrative and govern-
ment levels from focus on program, budding and status to focus on student
achievement. There also has to be support from developed countries in terms
of providing open-source texts for upper-level engineering, science and math-
ematics students. As Rwanda's universities grow and develop, the hope and
expectation is that they will produce a growing number of graduates who
can think and reason through complex problems. They will thus be able to
adequately develop and maintain the country's technological infrastructure.
Some of those graduates will become teachers, who wdl lead a new generation
of children to ever greater heights. It's a dream worth pursuing.
The Mind's Eye 51
Adekunle, Julius O. Culture and Customs of Rwanda. Westport, CT: Green-
wood , 2007.
Gourevitch, Philip. We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed
with Our Families: "Stories from Rwanda." New York: Picador, 1998.
Pottier, Johan. Re-imaging Rwanda: "Conflict, Survival and Disinformation in
the Late Twentieth Century." New York: Cambridge UP, 2002,
Republic of Rwanda. 2020 Vision, Kigali: Ministry of Finance and Economic
Planning <http://www.cdf.gov. rw/dacumen ts%20library/important%20
Strauss, Scott. "How Many Perpetrators Were There in the Rwandan Genocide?
An Estimate." Journal of Genocide Research 6.1 (2004): 85-98.
Unicef. Rwanda: Ten Years After the Genocide
<h ttp://www. unicef.org/ infobycoun try/ rwanda_genocide.htm h.
. Statistics. 23 Sept. 2010
Walker-KeleherJessica/'Reconceptualizing the Relationship Between Conflict
and Education: The case of Rwanda." Praxis, The Fletcher Journal of
Human Security 21, 35-53.
Watkins, Alfred, and Anubha Verma, eds. Building Science, Technology and
Innovation Capacity in Rwanda: "Developing Practical Solutions to
Practical Problems." Washington, DC: World Bank, 2008.
World Bank. Economic Indicators [statistics]. 23 Sept. 2010
<httpj/data. worldbank. orgi 'country/ rwanda>.
52 The Mind's Eye
Book Review Essay
BY ELY M. JANIS
Angel Island: "Immigrant Gateway to »
by Erika Lee and Judy Yung
Oxford University Press, 2010
Ask many Americans what they know about the history of immigra-
tion to the United States and quite a few will mention Ellis Island,
celebrating its place as an immigrant gateway or perhaps recalling
its role in their own family's immigration story. Or some might recall Emma
Lazarus's poem,"The New Colossus," engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of
Liberty, declaring, "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearn-
ing to breathe free. . . ." But New York harbor and Ellis Island were only one
of many points of entry for immigrants coming to America in the 19th and
20th centuries. Erika Lee and Judy Yung in Angel Island: "Immigrant Gateway
to America" bring to light the often forgotten westward entry of more than a
half million immigrants through the Angel Island immigration station off the
coast of San Francisco from 1910 to 1940. The history of Angel Island pro-
vides a very different view of American immigration history, illustrating the
long-standing tension that has existed in the United States between welcom-
ing and allowing immigrants to become Americans and improve their lives
and treating immigrants as unwelcome foreign interlopers to be kept out or
'the Minds Eye 53
Ely M. Janis
The Angel Island immigration station opened in 1910, 18 years after Ellis
Island. But whereas Ellis Island was conceived as a grand symbol of govern-
mental power with elegant towers and Great Hall to awe and inspire entering
immigrants and facilitate their entry into the United States, Angel Island was
built like a prison, whose primary purpose was to detain and deport those
immigrants, mainly Asian, deemed to be unassimilable and unwelcome in
American society, Its relative inaccessibility and isolation from San Francisco
was seen as a positive by federal immigration officials, who desired a virtually
escapeproof entry point that would allow them to detain and interrogate im-
migrants, removing them from the help of family and friends who might try
to coach them on how to pass inspection. It was also believed that it wonld
protect Americans from contagious disease and other perceived threats from
Nationality, race and economic and social status played large roles in how
immigrants were treated. First-class passengers, usually rich, white Americans
or Europeans, were inspected privately in their cabins, avoiding the trip from
their passenger ship to Angel Island for further examination. For those im-
migrants for whom further examination was deemed necessary, race contin-
ued to play a large factor in their treatment. There were separate entrances
and staging areas for whites and for Asians. This segregation continued in the
detention quarters and dining facilities, where whites were given superior ac-
commodation and food. The next step was medical examinations for physical
infirmities or contagious disease. Here, too, race played a role, with Asian im-
migrants having higher rates of medical exclusion than Europeans. It was then
off to interrogations conducted by immigration officials. Those who passed
inspection were then ferried to San Francisco and on to their various tasks
and endeavors in America.
Immigration officials at Angel Island initially targeted Chinese immigrants.
Hostility toward Chinese immigrants had its roots in the late- 19th century.
In 1882, the U.S. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which forbade
all Chinese laborers from entering the country for ten years and prohibit-
ed Chinese immigrants from becoming naturalized citizens. Only Chinese
students, teachers, diplomats, merchants and travelers could visit and carry
out business in the United States, provided they did not stay or permanent-
ly settle. This law was renewed in 1892 and 1902, becoming permanent in
1904. Chinese merchants and native-born Chinese-American citizens were
excluded but had to undergo rigorous examinations upon reentry to America
54 The Mind's Eye
after visits abroad. In response, a system of false papers and documentation
emerged, in which American-born Chinese men, who were allowed as U.S.
citizens to bring their wives and children into the country, would falsely claim
to have fathered children in China. These children were allowed entry into the
United States, but immigration officials did their best to keep such "paper sons
and daughters" out of the country, setting up a cat-and-mouse game between
officials and immigrants. The restrictions on Chinese immigration and natu-
ralization were not lifted until 1943.
Chinese immigrants coming through Angel Island faced a wide variety
of obstacles before being allowed entry into America. Upon arrival, men and
women, including husbands and wives, were separated and not allowed to see
one another or communicate until a decision had been reached to admit or
deport them. Children under the age of 12 remained with their mothers, while
boys over 12 stayed with their fathers. Chinese immigrants underwent medi-
cal examinations by public -health inspectors who carried them out with little
explanation or bedside manner. The order to strip naked and to provide stool
samples was resented by many immigrants and was particularly embarrassing
to Chinese women. Immigrants were then harshly interrogated by officials,
usually for hours but sometimes days. Officials attempting to trip up immi-
grants asked questions as obscure and minute as how many steps were in front
of immigrants' houses in China or which direction their house faced. In some
cases, the typed transcripts of these interviews ran 40 or 50 pages. Chinese im -
migrants detained on the island experienced cramped and unsanitary living
conditions, substandard food and a prohibition on visitors until a judgment
was rendered on their immigration status.
The treatment meted out to the Chinese detained on the island often led to
despair and bitterness among them. One tragic example is found in the expe-
rience of Soto Shee, an immigrant from Hong Kong in 1 924 who was detained
along with her seven-month-old son Soon Din pending further examination
of her credentials. While in detention, Soon Din died. Immigration officials
refused to allow Soto Shee to attend the burial of her child on the mainland
or release her to the custody of her husband, who was already resident in the
United States. Unable to bear this tragedy on her own, three weeks later Soto
hanged herself. Fortunately, a passing official saved her life and eventually she
was released to her husband on bond. Or take the case of Ouock Shee, the
wife of merchant Chew Hoy Quong, who was detained on Angel Island for
600 days— because of officials' suspicion that she was part of a supposed plan
"Ike Mind's Eye 55
to import Chinese prostitutes into the United States— before being admitted.
While these are extreme examples, the experiences of many immigrants on
Angel Island left them with lasting feelings of anger and shame, leading them
to conceal these memories from their children and grandchildren.
Lee and Yung also recount the experiences of Asian immigrants beyond
China, detailing Japanese, Southeast Asian, Korean and Filipino entry through
Angel Island. Japanese immigrants were the second-largest group after the
Chinese to be processed at Angel Island. They fared quite better than their
Chinese counterparts, with less than one percent excluded or deported.
Their interrogations usually consisted of fewer than 20 questions and they
were generally admitted after a day or two. This difference in treatment was
largely explained by Japan's limitation of the numbers of immigrants allowed
into the United States and of help by the Japanese Association of America,
an ethnic support group for Japanese immigrants. South Asians from India
faced discriminatory treatment, having the highest rejection rate of all immi-
grants processed at Angel Island. Many white Americans claimed that South
Asians were unable to assimilate into American culture and were a threat to
American workers. Immigrant officials' perception of Korean immigrants as
being mainly temporary students and housewives facilitated their, entry into
the country. Filipinos' experience at Angel Island demonstrates the impact
of imperialism on immigration policy. Initially, as "U.S. nationals" because
of the United States' colonization of the Philippines, Filipinos were al-
lowed into the country with little trouble. Once the Philippines was granted
commonwealth status and promised eventual independence in 1934, how-
ever, Filipino immigrants treatment shifted dramatically, They were now clas-
sified as "aliens" and treated like other Asian immigrants, leading to increased
detentions and reduced numbers allowed into the United States. Together, this
broad examination by Lee and Yung of the treatment of Asian immigrants
demonstrates the racism inherent in much of American immigration policy
during Angel Island's existence. ,
Further evidence of this race-based discrimination is evident in Lee and
Yung's examination of Russian and Jewish immigrants' passage through Angel
Island. Russians were given more lenient medical examinations and preferen-
tial treatment than Asians. Their questioning usually consisted of fewer than
20 questions, they were not required to provide witnesses to vouch for their
good character or provide written documentation of their finances, Jews flee-
ing Russia, Poland and Lithuania were also treated leniently. Poor Jews were
56 The Minds Eye
given assistance by the prominent Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which
helped with appeals and finding sponsors. It was only the restrictive quotas
of the 1924 Immigration Act that led to diminishing numbers of Russians
and [ews entering the United States, What explains the different experience
of Russians and Jews compared with Asians at Angel Island? The most im-
portant factor, simply, was race. They were European, white and treated with a
different set of immigration laws and policies.
Efforts to preserve Angel Island and commemorate its importance as
part of America's cultural heritage have proved challenging. A fire in 1940 in
the main administration building led to the closing of Angel Island in 1941,
beginning more than 20 years of neglect and deterioration, In 1968, the re-
maining buildings were slated for demolition and removal. It was seasonal
park ranger Alexander Weiss who led to the preservation of the immigration
station's remains. Exploring the ruins on his own, Weiss discovered hundreds
of poems in Chinese and other languages etched into the wooden barrack
walls by detainees conveying their fear and anger during their detention. In
December 1997, a coalition of scholars, journalists and community activists
succeeded in stopping the demolition and securing a designation for Angel
Island as a National Historic Landmark. In the last decade, remaining build-
ings were stabilized and the poems were chronicled and preserved. In 2009,
newly restored detention barracks, as well as special lighting and audio ki-
osks to help view and interpret the Chinese poems on the walls, were opened
to visitors. President Barack Obama proclaimed January 21, 2010, National
Angel Island Day. California's ongoing budget crisis has prevented further
work, but it would seem that Angel Island is now safe as a national site of
contemplation and remembrance.
The legacy of Angel Island leaves us with a much more complex and chal-
lenging view of American history than the triumphal facade of Ellis Island. It
is one of the most troubling artifacts of Americas unfair treatment and racism
toward the rest of the world. But, as Lee and Yung convincingly show us, it is
an important legacy to consider. For many Asian-Americans, Angel Island,
once a symbol of anger and shame, can now serve as a symbol of the need
for inclusiveness in America, As Paul Chow, a Chinese-American engineer
involved in the effort to save Angel Island, eloquently declared on the island's
being designated a National Historic Landmark,"'Ihis will give us our Valley
Forge, our Statue of Liberty and an eternal reminder that we do belong in
America." The United States has drawn immigrants from all points of the
Tlze Minds Eye 57
Ely M. jams
globe and it is the hard work, skills and sacrifice of generations of immigrants,
European and non-European alike, that have molded the America we know
today. Angel Island is a living memorial to this fact.
Lee and Yung conclude their rich study by briefly examining current immi-
gration and detention policy. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, changes
in immigration policy have led to huge increases in immigrant detention. In
2008 alone, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained more than
407,000 people on immigration-related issues. This dwarfs the number of im-
migrants detained during the peak of immigration restriction and exclusion
in the early 20th century. These numbers do not include only illegal or undoc-
umented immigrants who have only recently entered the country. They also
include long-term residents with green cards, asylum seekers, parents of U.S.
citizens and others who have often been taken into custody for nonviolent
crimes, including traffic infractions and other violations. Immigration laws
similar to that passed recently m Arizona seem to signal the possibility of
these numbers' continuing to rise. What these policies will mean to us as
a country and as a society is still unknown. Angel Island can help serve
as a guide and signpost in our current debates about immigration policy and
immigrants' role in America. One poem etched on the walls of Angel Island
poignantly reminds us:
There are tens of thousands of poems composed on these walls.
They are all cries of complaints and sadness.
The day I am rid of this prison and attain success,
I must remember that this chapter once existed.
We would do well to remember Angel Island as we debate the place of im-
migration in the fabric of 21 st-century American society and to help guide us
to create an immigration policy that serves our economic needs while treating
all immigrants with empathy, respect and humanity.
58 'Ike Mind's Eye
Gender, Race and the
Antilynching Crusade in the
BY FRANCES JONESSNEED
"Only the BLACK WOMAN can say, 'When and where I enter, in the quiet,
undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or
special patronage, then and there the whole . . . race enters with me.'"
—Anna Julia Cooper, 1892
The fight to abolish lynching in the United States is the story of
three organizations and one woman, Ida B. Wells-Barnett. Any
discussion of gender and lynching must begin with Wells-Barnett
and her crusade to end lynching in this country. She presents a difficult analy-
sis of the role of gender— in that she championed the fight against black male op-
pression at a time when her male counterparts were busy with other causes. Her
work demonstrates the power of an individual to bring change and awareness to
a situation to which polite society was turning its back. The groups that followed
and supported her efforts were the National Association of Colored Women's
The Mind's Eye 59
Clubs (NACWC), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People (NAACP) and the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention
of Lynching (ASWPL). Ida B. Wells-Barnett defined the agenda for African-
Americans for half a century. She determined where and when blacks entered
the fight against injustice through her crusade against lynching.
This article discusses the ways in which lynching was used as a political
tool to silence and control blacks in the United States from the legal abolition
of slavery to the end of the Jim Crow era and the ways in which Wells-Barnett
and three groups led the fight to end the practice of lynching. Their strategies
and focus differed, yet each had a uniquely gendered view of the lynching
phenomenon and the ways to curb the mob violence of its perpetrators.
Black Women and Solidarity
Black female solidarity developed as a response to slavery. According to
Debra Gray White, "The victimization of black women continued for over
seventy-five years after emancipation Discrimination and terrorism made
for a desperate, solitary struggle, one which allowed black women few oppor-
tunities to assume roles other than those they had assumed during slavery"'
Toni Morrison said of the black woman, "[S]he had nothing to fall back
on; not maleness, not whiteness, not ladyhood, not anything. And out of the
profound desolation of her reality she may well have invented herself," 2 This
call for self-invention is what began the foundation of black women's political,
cultural and intellectual traditions in this country. This legacy set them apart
dramatically from white women and had a powerful effect on the roles that
free black women undertook in terms of creating organizations and move-
ments that promoted moral, social, political and intellectual awareness of
what it meant to be a black woman in America.
II] n a patriarchal society, black men, as men, constituted a potential
challenge to the established order. Laws were formulated primarily to
exclude black men from adult male prerogatives in the public sphere
and lynching meshed with these legal mechanisms of exclusion.
Black women represented a more ambiguous threat. They too were
denied access to the politico-jura 1 domain, but since they shared
Debra Gray White, Ar'n't I a Woman?: "Female Slaves in the Plantation South" (New York; Nor
ton, 1985), 163.
'Jacqueline Bobo. Cynthia Hudley, Claudine Michel, '[he Black Studies Reader (Boston: Rout-
ledge, 2004), 277.
this exclusion with women in general, its maintenance engendered
less anxiety and required less force. Lynching served primarily to
dramatize hierarchies among men. In contrast, the violence directed
at blacks illustrates the double jeopardy of race and sex. Black women
were sometimes executed by lynch mobs, but more routinely they
served as targets of sexual assault. 5
The lynching motif is a power struggle for economic and social con-
trol. White women were used as pawns, and black women became the
invisible victims while they and their fathers, husbands and sons were
lynched in grand ceremony. Black women were actual victims of the lynch
mobs and when not lynched, remained rape victims. As facquelin Dowd
Hall points out, there is a historical connection between rape and lynching.
Yet black women stand at the center of this motif as "mother" to them all-
white males, black males and white females— and became the earliest activists
against lynching in this country.
Black Women as Lynch Victims
Until recently, there has been little research about the special nature of
black women as lynch victims. In 1 980, Robert L. Zangrando wrote the defini-
tive book about the NAACP's crusade against lynching— The NAACP Crusade
Against Lynching, tm-imf^-yet he makes no distinction between male
and female victims. In the first chapter, he gives a short background of the
extralegal violence against blacks in the country and states:
What follows is not a history of the NAACP; nor is it a social or
psychological study of lynching and its practitioners. Rather, this
book was designed to analyze the role that the Association played
in the struggle against lynching and to explore the consequences
of that role for the organization itself and for the emergence of the
twentieth-century civil rights movement. No such movement for
human rights could have occurred, in the form it took, without the
NAACP's campaign against the mob. 5
'Iscqudin Dowd Hall, Revolt Against Chivalry (New York: Columbia UP. 1 993), xvi.
'Robert L. Zangrando, 'Ihc NAACP Crusade Against lynching, 1 909-1 950 (Philadelphia: Temple
Vie Mind's Eye 61
What Zangrando does in the ten chapters of the book is to detail the NAACP's
legal fight to pass an antilynching bill in Congress from 1918 through 1949. 6
He explains, "Lynching became the wedge by which the NAACP insinuated
itself into the public conscience, developed contacts within governmental cir-
cles, established credibility among philanthropists, and opened lines of com-
munication with other liberal-reformist groups that eventually joined it in a
mid-century, civil rights coalition of unprecedented proportions." 7
It becomes clear that the issue of lynching launched the NAACP as a
national organization and allowed it to make connections and coalitions like
no other organization that predated it. In Zangrandos study, the NAACP is
the champion of the cause and nowhere is any credit given to the long years
of work by Ida B. Wells-Barnett or the NACWC, who prepared the ground-
work. Even more important is that in the figures he gives of the actual lynch-
ing cases, gender is the missing variable." Between 1877 and 1950, there were
4,743 lynchings in the United States and of that number, 3,446 were African-
Americans. 5 The recent estimate is that about ten percent of the total were
black women. 10
An example of a black female lynch victim is Laura Nelson, who was
lynched in Okemah, Oklahoma, on May 25,1911, two years after the founding
of the NAACP. The Nelson case was similar to a number of other lynchings of
women, in that it involved a suspected crime by her husband, Austin Nelson.
s Zangrando, 5.
l0 Someof the recent studies that locus on black female victimsinclude: Maria Delongoria,"Stranger
Fruit: The Lynching of Black Women: The Cases of Rosa Richardson and Maria Scott," Ph.D. dis-
sertation (U of Missouri Columbia, 2006); Crystal Nicole Femister, "Ladies and Lynching: The
Gendered Discourse of Mob Violence in the New South, 1880-1930," Ph.D. dissertation (Prince-
ton U, 2000); Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, African- American Women's Networks in the Anti-Lynching
Crusade" In Gender, Class, Race ami Reform in the Progressive Era. ed. Norelee Frankel and Nancy
S. Dye (Lexington: U of Kentucky. 1991); Johnnie P. Stevenson. The Lynching of Laura (Phila-
delphia: Xlibris, 2005); Mary lane Brown,"Eradkating This Evil: Women in the American Anti-
Lynching Movement, 1892-1940." In Studies in African American History and Culture (Boston:
Roulltdge, 2000); Patricia Schechtet "Unsettled Business: Ida B. Wells Against Lynching or How
Antilynching Got Its Gender." In W. Fritz Brundage, ed., Under Sentence of Death: "b inching in
the South" (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1997); Patrick J, Hubcr." 'Caught Up in the Violent
Whirlwind of Lynching': The 1885 Quadruple Lynching in Chatham County, North Carolina,"
North Carolina Historical Review 75 (1998): 134-60; Michelle M. Kuhl, "Modern Martyrs: African
American Responses to Lynching, 1880-1940" (SUNY Binghamton, 2004).
62 The Mind's Eye
On the morning of May 1, 1911, Deputy Sheriff George Looney, accompa-
nied by several other men, arrived at the home of Austin and Laura Nelson
in Paden, Oklahoma, to apprehend Austin, who was accused of stealing a cow
from his neighbor.
Paden, Oklahoma, was a small settlement of mostly African-Americans
who settled there in the early years of the 20th century, before Oklahoma was
a state. More black towns were established in the Oklahoma Territory than
in any other place. After Reconstruction, many blacks left Deep Southern
states to travel to the new western territories, believing that it would offer
them a greater chance for freedom and land. The migratory pattern of the
Nelson family was probably typical of many of the black families in the area.
Austin Nelson was born in Waco, Texas, in 1873. He was the third youngest
of six children of Dave and PJioda Nelson, who were both born in slavery in
the state of Georgia. According to the 1880 census, Dave Nelson worked as a
molder in a foundry in Waco, which was good employment during that time;
but by 1900, he had moved the family to Pottawatomie, Oklahoma, in the
Oklahoma Territory. By that time, Austin had been married to Laura for four
years and they had a three-year-old son, L. D.
The Oklahoma Territory was still a rough western area where vigilan-
tism ruled. The population was mixed. Native Americans' land was ceded or
taken and whites were the majority of the population. Inl892, the governor
of Oklahoma reported that the population of the territory was "about 85 per
cent white, 1 per cent colored, and 5 per cent Indians. About 5 per cent of
the whites are foreign born. Nearly every State and Territory in the Union is
represented . . . but the great majority of our white population is from the ad-
joining States." 1 1 The African-American population continued to increase, es-
pecially after statehood led by the boosterism of black leaders such as Edward
P. McCabe and Booker T. Washington. It is believed that as many as 50 black
towns were founded in Oklahoma. With the burgeoning population of blacks
came the same problems they faced in the South— discrimination based on
color."By the time delegates met in the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention
in Guthrie in 1906 to organize a new state, both law and social customs had
created an atmosphere for a completely segregated society." 12
'Report of the Governor of Oklahoma, Guthrie, Oklahoma, October 1, 1892: 470 (Oklahoma
Historical Society <hupffvtvrw.useryknet.net/~frizzell/okspage.html>).
L1 Donald Greene, "African Americans" (Oklahoma Historical Society
<http!fwvrvi.users. icnet.net/~frizzdI/ohspage.html >),
The Minds Eye 63
Given this history, life in Oklahoma was as difficult for the Nelson fami-
lies as it must have been in Texas and Georgia, the states in which they lived
before migrating to the Oklahoma Territory, Yet they arrived expecting bet-
ter opportunities in Oklahoma. Okemah was the county seat of Okfuskee
County. The town was founded on the hope that a major railroad would be
built there. It never happened, so the employment opportunities were meager
at best. African -Americans were not the only group that suffered from pov-
erty, yet they were the group that was hindered from developing any further
opportunities. Land was not available to most of them, so they eked out a
living from the land that they rented from larger farms. Theft was a com-
mon crime. It was treated harshly, usually by lynching if the accused was
found guilty, so when the men arrived at the Nelson home on that fateful
morning, the Nelsons had plenty of reasons to be afraid. Shots were fired and the
deputy sheriff was killed, It is believed that the Nelsons' son fired the fatal shot, yet
Laura Nelson confessed lo the crime. The men took the entire family to jail. Austin
Nelson confessed to theft after he was arrested. He was arraigned and sentenced to
three years in the state prison. Laura and her son were held in the jail to await trial
on the charge of murder. Early on the morning of May 25, 191 1, a crowd arrived
at the jail and demanded that Laura and her son be released to them. According to
the jailer, the mob rushed him, tied him up and took the prisoners. After the jailer
freed himself, he could find no traces of the prisoners or the mob.
The next day, the bodies of Laura Nelson, 27, and her 14-year-old son
were found hanging about five feet apart from the steel bridge that crossed
the North Canadien River. Laura had been raped and beaten before she was
hanged. A picture of the lynching of Laura Nelson is the only extant photo-
graph found of a black woman lynch victim. The photograph of her body
swaying, suspended from the bridge, with the flowing river below and the
images of sky and trees beyond with white onlookers presents the lonely im-
age of the black female as she is remembered in the history of lynching in this
country. Laura Nelson, like the majority of black female lynch victims, tried
to protect her family and paid the supreme price. Whether the mob was angry
that Austin Nelson received only a slight sentence or whether they lynched
Laura and her son as an example for the black community is not known, Be-
fore that time, there had been many other lynchings in Oklahoma, almost
50 before Laura and her son. Unlike other lynching photographs, the one
of Laura Nelson and her son was not published in any newspapers or made
into postcards. The photographer, G. H. Farnam, kept the negative and may
64 The Mind's Eye
have provided copies for those who wished to have a memento of the mother
and son. The hangings achieved their purpose. Laura Nelson's family, Austin's
brothers, refused to claim the bodies, so it was left to Okemah's town officials
to cut them down and provide a burial place.
A grand jury was called in June of 1 9 1 i to investigate the hangings, but it
failed to indict anyone. By the 23rd of the month, the white citizens received
word that blacks were very angry about the lynchings and were going to attack
and burn the town. No action was taken by the black citizens, but according to
town fore, the white citizens were frightened enough to arm themselves and
stay inside their homes. Nine years later, the Tulsa Race Riot occurred, when
blacks were killed and their property destroyed because a lynching was foiled.
Race relations in Oklahoma continued in this manner until the 1950s, when
segregation was challenged and eventually abolished as a result of the Brown
v. Board of Education decision.
The case of Laura Nelson is one of many like it that need to be unearthed
and studied. A number of mysteries remain. In the 1910 census, Austin and
Laura were listed with two children, their son 13 years of age and a two-
year-old daughter, Carrie. What happened to Carrie Nelson after the jail-
ing of her parents and brother? Some claim that her body was found float-
ing below the bodies of her mother and brother in the North Canadien
River. What h appened to Austin Nelson after he served his three-year term
in prison? Some suggest that if he survived, he may have changed his name
and moved from Oklahoma. Moreover, what of the Nelsons' other rela-
tives? We !ose them after 1920 and the stories behind the other victims are
yet to be unearthed.
IDA B, WELLS-BARNETT
Ida B. Wells-Barnett's fight was to end lynchings of Laura Nelson, her
son and other women and men like them. Wells-Barnett was born a slave and
experienced victimization firsthand. Lynching was about white, male domi-
nance and control of the political, economic and social world of blacks. It
was an instrument of coercion that created a climate of fear in the black com-
munity during Reconstruction. As Wells-Barnett pointed out,"[T]he real pur-
pose of these savage demonstrations" (lynchings) "is to teach the Negro that
in the South he has no rights that the law will enforce." 11 From the inception
"M* B. Wells-Barnett, "Lynch Law in Georgia" (Chicago, June 20, 1 899), 1.
The Mind's Eye 65
of her publication of Southern Horrors: "Lynch Law in All Its Phases" in 1892,
her crusade against lynching subsumed her life until her death in 1931." She
was a lone voice until the founding of the NACWC in 1896, the NAACP in
1909, the Anti-lynching Crusaders campaign in 1922 and the ASWPLin 1930.
Frederick Douglass, the grand fighter against slavery, was an ardent
antilynching advocate during Reconstruction. Most notable among his edito-
rials was "Lynch Law in the South," in which he asserted that the true reason
for the murders of blacks was that the "negro meets no resistance when on a
downward course. It is only when he rises in wealth, intelligence, and manly
character that he brings upon himself the heavy hand of persecution. The
men lynched were murdered because they were prosperous." 15 Douglass was
a great admirer of Wells- Barnett, who became a one-person machine against
lynching. He wrote a letter that she included in her landmark 1892 text on
lynching, Southern Horrors: "You have dealt with the facts with cool, painstak-
ing fidelity and left those naked and uncontradicted facts to speak for them-
selves. Brave woman! you have done your people and mine a service which
can neither be weighed nor measured." 16
The lynching of her friends Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell and Henry
Stewart on March 9, 1892, was the beginning of Wells- Barnett's lifelong pas-
sion to ferret out injustice against blacks wherever she found it. She studied
the situation and presented the facts behind the lynchmgs of many black men
and women. Most important, she exposed the hypocrisy of the southern white
justice system. She was the most famous black woman of the period, interna-
tional symbol of fearlessness, crusading against injustice. Wells-Barnett was
able to mobilize northern white and black support, including money, and gain
access to media outlets. She believed the focus on an antilynching campaign
was the most pressing issue for African-Americans because it acted as group
terrorism and retarded the success of the movement toward total freedom.
Wells-Barnett realized that southern whites used lynching as a tool of group
terror, intimidating many others by physically victimizing a few. She made
K Paula J. Giddings, Ida: A Sword Among Lions, "Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching"
(Amistid, NY, 2008).
'^Frederick Douglass.'Xynch Law in the South." In Albert P. Blaustein and Robert L. Zangrando,
Civil Rights and African Americans: a Documentary History (Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP,
'HVells-Bametl, Southern Horrors and Other Writings: "the Anti-lynching Campaign of Ida B.
Wells-Barnett, 1892-1900" (New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1996). preface.
66 The Mind's F.ye
the choice to leave the South in order to name the injustice and challenge it
directly, rather than work within the system to gain a small measure of power.
In an editorial in Memphis Free Speech on May 2 1, 1 892, she wrote: "Nobody
in this section of the country believes the old threadbare lie that Negro men rape
white women. If southern white men are not careful, they wil overreach them-
selves and public sentiment will have a reaction; a conclusion will then be reached
which will be very damaging to the moral reputation of their women.""
Wells-Bamett became a crusader carrying her story throughout the Unit-
ed States and traveled to Europe to appeal to a world audience about the in-
justice of the American system. It was one of those trips that enraged a white
Missouri newspaper editor. Missouri was one of the first states to organize a
black women's club and the state that provided the rallying issue for the for-
mation of a national organization of black women. She confronted the false
stereotype of the black male sexual predator.
Wells-Barnett ripped the cover of respectability off those assumptions, so
that many in the North, and even some in the South, began to object to "Judge
Lynch." Race liberals, as these whites were called, felt compelled to protest
what was obviousiy a subversion of the US. Constitution, while ignoring such
issues as economic and political discrimination against blacks. It gives us an
idea of the tenor of race relations at the time when we realize that those who
objected to lynching were designated liberals, a dangerous label in the South.
When southern women activists moved away from the racial-superiority
angle when fighting for women's rights (like the earlier suffrage movement)
in the 1920s and '30s, they did so in part by attacking lynching, seeing it as a
means of keeping down white women as well as blacks.
Along with her longtime friend Mary Church Terrill, Wells-Barnett used
the antilynching campaign to galvanize middle-class black women across
the country. While many of those women had been involved in charity work
or in self-help organizations, the National Association of Colored Women's
Clubs gave black women an arena in which to express political as well as so-
cial concerns. With the establishment of this group, black women had a place
to express both their racial and their gender identities. The NACWC became
the leading voice for woman suffrage in the black community. Rather than
depend on black men or white women for a political voice, they developed a
voice of their own. Black women were now defending black men, which was
the opposite of what southern race relations dictated.
"Wells-Bamett, Editorial, Memphis Free Speech, 21 May], 1892.
The Mind's Eye 67
National Association of Colored Women's Clubs (NACWC)
In 1893, John W. Jacks, a Missouri newspaper editor, sent a letter to the
members of the British Anti-lynching Society denouncing black women, but
most especially Miss Ida B. Wells-Barnett, who was touring England at the
time, lecturing on the evils of lynching. 18 'the general tone of Jacks's letter
represented a popular image of black women in the country at the turn of
the century. Although black women were quick to establish that Jacks's let-
ter was only an indication of other problems, they spent the next decades of
club activity in rebuttal of the charges. An impetus of the Jacks letter was one
of the largest and most successful meetings of black women in the country.
It also led to the formation of the National Association of Colored Women's
Clubs. Indeed, the activities of the NACWC and the contents of its literary
organ, Trie Woman Era, reveal that a significant number of middle-class black
women at the turn of the century were socially responsible and politically
aware, a far cry from the pejorative stereotype."
Ida E. Wells-Barnett 's activism spurred the formation of the organiza-
tion and she w : as heavily involved in club work. Her activism, however, defied
categories, because she did not limit herself to the definition of "woman's
place" of her time. She did not wait for the support of men— black or white.
She was destined to do this work and because of that, she did not often receive
support from the traditional black organizations, such as the church or even
the NAACP, of which she was a founding member. Patricia Schechter and
Paul Giddings's recent works on Wells-Barnett further detail the aspects of
her struggles with not only black male authorities but also black and white
women's organizations. Wells-Barnett was a singular force against the barbar-
ity of lynching and laid the groundwork for all future activism in that area.
Black women's organizations were early promoters of intellectual, moral
and political activities for young black women. The National Association of
Colored Women's Clubs, founded in 1895, was the first national organization
founded by blacks after slavery, predating the NAACP by a decade. African-
American women became early members of local organizations that affiliated
with the NACWC. The focus of the national organization was on suffrage,
"John W. Jacks, "Letter to Miss Florence Balgarnie," 19 March 1 895, Mary Church Terrell Papers,
Moorland- Spingarn Collection (Washington. D.C.: Howard U).
"Emma L. Fields, "The Women's Cluh Movement in the United States: 1S77-] 900," masters thesis
(Howard U, 1948), 60.
68 Ihe Minds Eye
temperance, antilynching, education and social reform. The women of this
organization were some of the leading women of their day.
The efforts by largely middle-class black females to "demand justice, sim-
ple justice, as the right of every race" by gathering together and demanding re-
forms gave them a special power, rooted in their gender, during the Jim Crow
era. Black men dared not speak so openly or defiantly about the brutalities of
Jim Crow iest they be lynched as would-be molesters of white women. The in-
ability of white supremacists to attack black women in this way enabled them
to speak defiantly in places and in ways that no black man ever could. In time,
the black female voice of protest even won over many white club women who
joined with them in the 1920s to campaign against lynching. 20
Lillian Smith, in her classic work Killers of the Dream, paints a portrait of
a scarred psyche of the souls of white men— torn between their desires for the
black-mammy figures of their youth and a continuing desire for black women
against the societal taboos of the South- They wished to control the lives of
white women, black men and black women.
As the Jim Crow era terrorized black men with mob violence, de-
prived them of their political voice with disenfranchisement, and
shut them out of jobs in American industry in favor of white im-
migrants, it often fell upon black women to hold the black family
together— both in the rural South and in the urban North. 1 hey did
this by working as domestics in the homes of wh ite people, by creat-
ing networks of kin and female friends to support one another as
they eked out a livelihood, and by participating in their churches and
mutual aid groups. This cooperation among black women produced
a sense of pride that came not from their social status or from their
work but rather from their families, neighborhood, and church/ 1
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Early in the history of the NAACP, the executive board included lynch-
ing as one of the major items on their platform for attacking the Jim Crow
"Ronald L RDavis/'Resisting |im Crnw: In-Deptli lissay"
The Minds Eye 69
system. In fact, "the NAACP started with a lynching 100 years after the birth
of Abraham Lincoln, and in the city, Springfield, Illinois, which was his long-
time residence,"" where white mob violence took the lives of seven blacks
and destroyed more than $200,000 worth of property." "When the N. A. A.
C. P. really went out to expose and report on lynchings, many 'good' people
resigned in disgust.'"' 1 Nonetheless, their view of lynching was male centered.
As an example, in the historic march down Fifth Avenue in 1933, the march-
ers displayed placards reading, 1 ! AM A MAN." This language speaks volumes
about their understanding of the gendered nature of violence. Each issue of
Du Boiss Crisis, the official publication of the NAACP, included a section on
lynching that came to be called "Our Burden." After a detailed explanation of
each lynch victim, there was always a list titled "Negro Men Lynched." Inl934,
the heading of the list changed to read "Negro Men and Women Lynched."
It was at that point that the organization revised the language to reflect the
gendered nature of the movement. Du Bois and his relentless inclusion of
the lynching figures kepi the subject of lynching visible for all liberal-minded
As Patricia Schechter points out, it was with the 1922 Anti-lynching
Crusaders— established to support the Dyer Bill under Mary Talbert, pres-
ident of the NACWC— that the NAACP relied on women to be the fund-
raisers—essentially the foot soldiers of the movement— that things began to
change. ;3 The male contingent, James Weldon Johnson, Du Bois and Walter
White, were the public faces and voices of the movement. Hence, the analogy
made by historian Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham about black churchwomen
and their invaluable support of the black religious institution is true of the
support of black women in the antilynching crusade. 26 Even men such as Du
3i W. E. B. Du Bois, William Edward Burghardl. 1868-1 963, Chapter 1 5: "The NAACP" in Ihe Au-
tobiography of W.U.B. DuBois: "A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the Last Decade of Its hirst
Century" (New York: International, 1968), 254.
"lames L. Crouthamel, "The Springfield Race Riot of 1 908," Tfit Journal of Negro History 45, No.
3 (Inly 1960), 164.
"Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt, 1868-1963, Chapter 1 : "About Birthdays" in in Battle for
Peace: "The Story of My 83rd Birthday." Shirley Graham (New York: Masses and Mainstream,
25 Patricia Schechter, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and American Reform, 1880-1930 (U of North Carolina
^Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham.
The Minds Eye
Bois, who knew the value of black women, still ignored the significant role
of black women in the antilynching movement and failed to decry the brutal
murder, rape and mutilation of black women victims.
An important part of black women's contribution to the NAACP was
its campaign for the Dyer Bill and the establishment of an organiza-
tion that publicized the horrors of lynching and provided a focus for
campaign fund-raising. The Anti-Lynching Crusaders, founded in
1922 under the aegis of the NAACP and the National Association
of Colored Women's Clubs, was a women's organization that aimed
to raise money to promote the passage of the Dyer Bill and for the
prevention of lynching in general. The Crusaders sought to inciude
white women but were largely unsuccessful despite the efforts of
their director, Mary Talbert, who sent 1 ,850 letters to "white women
known to be sympathetic to social reform." The Crusaders' slogan
was, 'A Million Women United to Stop Lynching" and their aim was
to get one million women to donate "at least" one dollar each toward
the NAACP anti-lynching campaign. 27
Congressman Leonidas Dyer of Missouri introduced his Anti-Lynching
Bill— known as the Dyer Bill— into Congress in 1918. 28 Although it had not
done so initially, from 1919 onward, the NAACP supported Dyer's antilynch-
ing legislation. The Dyer Bill was passed by the House of Representatives in
1922 and was given a favorable report by the Senate committee, but a filibus-
ter in the Senate halted its passage. Efforts to pass similar legislation were
not taken up again until the 1930s with the Costigan- Wagner Bill. 2 ' The Dyer
Bill influenced the text of antilynching legislation promoted by the NAACP
into the 1950s, including the Costigan-Wagner Bill." An antilynching bill was
never ratified, though W. E. B. Du Bois believed that:
... a number of plausible and attractive explanations of the decline
of lynching [exist] from 226 in 1896 to 11 in 1928. Some attribute
"Angelica Mungarro,"How Did Black Women in the NAACP Promote the Dyer Anti-Lynching
Bill, 1918-1923?" <http://womhht.akxanderstreet.com/lynch/mtm.html>.
"Anti-Lynching Bill," 1918, Senate Reports (7951), 67th Congress: 2nd Session. 1921-1922 (Vol.
' M <http-.//www.naacp.orglaboul/historylanliJynchmgJnllJ}atk^
The Mind's Eye 7 1
it to prayer, and others to inter-racial resolutions; but 1 see it differ-
ently. I see lynching increase and decrease indifferently, until in 1 9 1 9
a nationwide agitation was begun by the N. A. A. C. P., backed by
statistics, advertisements and meetings. The curve of mob murder
fell lazily. Then suddenly in a single year it dropped 75%. 1 study the
occurrences of that year, 1922 . And that study leads me to believe that
the effective check to lynching was the organized political power of
Northern Negroes that put the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill through the
House of Representatives January 26, 1 922, by a vote of 230 to 1 1 9."
Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching
It was not until white women joined the antilynching campaign in earnest
that the numbers of lynch victims began to decline. Black women appealed for
white women's support from the earliest campaign of Ida B. Wells-Barnett and
Mary Burnett Talberts appeal for the 1922 NAACP campaign. Yet, with the
exception of a few individuals, white women did not join the campaign in
large numbers until Jessie Daniel Ames spurred the formation of the ASWPL
in 1930. Even then, it was an all-white female organization because of their
fear that an interracial committee would repel white southern women.
Ames and the ASWPL used Wells-Barnett techniques to convince whites
of the fallacy of the lynch rationale that they were protecting the virtue of
white women from the bestial nature of black men. Ames proved that "the
justification for lynching was false. Perpetrators claimed that they were de-
fending the virtue of southern white women. Yet statistics that Ames gathered
showed that only 29 percent of the 204 lyncbings from 1922 to 1929 involved
allegations of crimes against white women By 1938, the number of lynch-
ings had fallen by 50 percent. ... In 1942, when Ames discontinued the orga-
nization, lynching was rare." 32
"Du Bats, William Edward Bttrgliardl, 1868-7963, "The Negro Citizen." In Crisis 36, No. 5 (May
1929), 154-56, 171-73 (New York: Crisis, 1929), 154-73.
,; Bnnnie L. Ford, "The Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching 1 '
[essie Daniel Ames, Southern Women and Lynching: "Women and Social Movements in the
United States, 1775-2000" <http://womhist.binghamton.edu>; Henry E.Barber, "The Association
of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, 1930-42." Pkyfon 34, No. 4 (Dec. 1973),
378-89; Dowd Hall, Revolt Against Chivalry, "lessie Daniel Ames and the Women's Campaign
against Lynching" (New York: Columbia UP, 1979).
72 The Minds Eye
It is interesting to note the differences in the nature of lynching between
that of black men and that of black women. Most women were lynched pro-
tecting black men, children or themselves. The selfless nature of black wom-
en's sacrifices from the abolition of slavery to the end of the Jim Crow era and
Wells- Barnett's focus on the infamous charges of rape against black men are
illustrative of the work that needs to be done in unearthing the stories of black
The murder of Emmett Till in 1955 served as a turning point for the
post- World War II generation and demonstrated that southern whites still
used violence as a tool of terror— just as they had in the post-Civil War era.
'Ihis legacy of oppression gave Emmett Tills murderers the license to murder
a child for alleged infraction of the southern code of behavior. Emmett Tills
murder was not an anomaly. It was not the first or last murder of a black man
ill Mississippi by white terrorists. Yet his murder was publicized more than
any of the others before or after. Many believe that the reason we remember
the big doe-eyed boy child is because of his mother, Mamie Till Bradley. She
made the preservation of the memory of her son a crusade. She insisted that
there be an open coffin so that the world could see what had been done to
her boy. If the picture of Till in his Sunday suit, white shirt, hat cocked at an
angle and those large brown eyes is not haunting, the picture of his battered
body is the stuff of nightmares. In spite of the acquittal of the two white defen-
dants, Till's memory is etched in our collective memory. Mamie Till Bradley
made sure we would remember. She knew that the murder of her son would
have historic meaning for the majority of black Americans. The photograph
of Laura Nelson and her son hanging from the Oklahoma Bridge in 1911 is
also etched in our memories. Both are historic markers of the violent nature
of our democratic society. Mamie Till Bradley is an extension of a long line of
activist black women and Laura Nelson is an example of the invisible victims.
Americans must recognize that oppression and violence remain a problem
in American society that needs to be addressed with the same attention it
received in the past century by the three leading organizations of their time—
the NAACP, the NACW C and the AS WPL— and one small brave woman who
was not afraid to speak truth to power.
77ic Mindi Eye
Akili Carter is an MST therapist in North Carolina. He has two children,
Ayanna and Devpn. He has been writing since he was in high school and
has published a collection of poetry titled Words Are My Weapons of Choke.
He has a bachelor's degree in both history and English from MCLA and a
master's degree in mental-health counseling . He is currently working on his
second collection of poetry.
Ted Gilleys poems and short stories have been published in a score of jour-
nals, magazines and anthologies, including New England Review, Northwest
Review, The National Review, Prairie Schooner and Poetry Northwest. His col-
lection of short stories, Bliss, won the Prairie Schooner fiction Prize in 2009
and was published by the University of Nebraska Press in September 20 10. He
currently lives i n southern Vermont with his wife, jewelry designer Ivy Long.
Ben Jacques is a professor in the English department at MCLA. He has de-
grees from California State College and the University of Arizona, His inter-
ests are in creative nonfiction and journalism.
Ely Janis is an assistant professor in the history department at MCLA. He
has degrees from the University of Oregon and Boston College. His research
interests include US immigration and ethnicity.
Frances Jones-Sneed is professor of history at MCLA. She has degrees from
Tougabo College, Northwestern University and the University of Missouri-
Columbia. Her research areas are African- American women and local history.
She is currently working on a monograph about W. E. B. Du Bois. She lives in
Williamstown, Massachusetts, with her husband, Stephen D. Sneed.
74 The Mind's Eye
Jeffrey McRae earned an M.A. in English from the University of New
Hampshire and an M.F.A. in poetry from Washington University in St
Louis. He currently teaches creative writing and American poetry at MCLA,
His manuscript Device was a finalist for the 2010 New Editions Poetry Prize. He
also plays drums and writes music for the SubZero Jazz Ensemble. He lives in
North Bennington, Vermont, with his wife and two sons.
Laura Stevenson studied the literary power of Elizabethan pastoral in her
book Praise and Paradox and later followed the pastoral thread in her stud-
ies of the Golden Age of Children Literature. As a novelist, she juxtaposed
Vermont and California in her young-adult book Happily After All, and she
used many themes of Elizabethan pastoral romance in her young- adult fan-
tasy 'the Island and the Ring. In her most recent novel, she has portrayed the
world of Vermont summers in Return in Kind. She and her husband, the poet
E D. Reeve, live in her family's Vermont farmhouse.
Adrienne Wootters is associate professor of physics at MCLA, where she
has been since 2001. She received a Fulbright Scholar Award to teach for six
months at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology in Kigali, Rwanda,
during her sabbatical. She received a B.S. in physics from the University
of Texas, Austin, and a Ph.D. in experimental condensed matter physics at
University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is a Leadership Fellow of SENCER
(Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities), a na-
tional program promoting science education reform in colleges and univer-
sities. Her chief passions and activities are centered on working to improve
science education at the K- 12 levels.
The Mind's Eye 75
While emphasizing articles of scholarly merit. The Mind's Eye focuses on a general
communication of ideas of interest to a liberal arts college. We welcome expository
essays as well as fiction. Wc publish yearly. The deadline for submissions is July 15.
Submissions should adhere to these guidelines:
1 . Submit unpublished manuscripts both on paper and on disk, using either PC or
MAC platform word-processing programs. Manuscripts should be typed double
spaced and printed on one side of the paper only. List your name, address, phone
number and e-mai! address, if available, on the cover sheet, and your name at the top
of each page.
2. We will consider simultaneous submissions under the provision that the author
notify us of this and contact us immediately if the material is accepted elsewhere.
3. If you wish your manuscript and disk returned, please enclose a return self-
addressed envelope, if it is to he mailed off campus, attach sufficient postage. While
we make every attempt to safeguard your manuscript and disk, we cannot be held
responsible for their loss.
4. Use MLA style, with in-text references, as appropriate to the content and disciplin-
ary approach of your article (see MLA Style Manual for guidelines),
5. Please include a word count.
6. While we will consider articles of unspecified length, preference is given to articles
of fewer than 20 pages.
7. We reserve the right to edit for clarity and accuracy.
8. We will consider one-color artwork (e.g., photographs, line drawings, woodcuts).
9. Payment will be made in contributors copies.
Submit your manuscript to:
The Mind's Eye
Frances Jones-Sneed, Managing Editor
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
375 Church Street
North Adams, MA 01247
For queries: email@example.com
76 The Minds Eye
The Mind's Eye
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
375 Church Street
North Adams, MA 01247